news Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - 05:30

Image for representation purpose only On June 12, observed as the World Day against Child Labour, Karnataka’s Minister for Labour PT Parameshwara Naik came bearing important news for the state. Speaking on the sidelines of an event held in Bengaluru, he announced that Dakshina Kannada district has been declared completely free from child labour. This would have been a reason to cheer, only if the claim was not highly unlikely to be true. When The News Minute asked him based on what he was announcing the district to be child-labour-free, the minister said, “I personally visited Dakshina Kannada recently and was informed by the deputy commissioner that the district was child-labour-free and a report was prepared in this regard.” But here is the contradiction. In an RTI response dated March 18 2015, the Assistant Labour Commissioner’s Office in Mangaluru stated that Dakshina Kannada was not free of child labour, and that they did not have information pertaining to the criteria used to declare any district free of child labour. This was in response to an RTI request filed by Renni D’Souza, state convenor of Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL). The Minster, however, stuck to his stand. “What we have is the latest data, and based on that we can say that there is no child labour in the district,” said Naik. Ironically, on the same day the minister made the announcement, Bengaluru based NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) released a report analysing census data which stated that between 2001 and 2011, child labour had increased by 53% in certain urban pockets in the state.  While none of the pockets analysed for the report were from Dakshina Kannada, activists with the NGO said that it is unlikely that child labour could have vanished from just one district when there was a massive increase in other places within the state. “While it is possible in making small villages or hamlets free of child labour, it is much complicated at the district level due to the vastness of area,” said Suma Ravi, Regional Director (South) of CRY, “Additionally, it is not necessary that once an area is declared free of child labour, it will remain so in the long run. It needs to be checked on a year on year basis,” she said. Another reason why complete eradication of child labour is a herculean task, she said, is due to presence of “hidden” child labour, and government agencies, which usually cull out information from census data to arrive at figures on child labour, do not always factor it in. “It is usually believed that a child is not engaged in labour if he or she is attending school. But what if the child is working before and after school hours, but is still attending school? This does not take into account that the child is working,” she said.  

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