Most children involved in child labour in Telangana and do not go to school are predominantly from marginalised communities in the state, reveals a sample survey done by the Department of Labour. The Labour Department in the first phase of the survey found that as many as 80 to 90% of the 9,724 children identified as child labourers, were from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities in Telangana.
The survey, in its second phase presently, is being conducted in association with the Centre for Economic and Social Studies.
The sample survey was conducted across 10 districts in 56 mandals, as part of a pan-state survey on child labour. The second phase of the survey is ongoing. This is the first time a sample survey is being conducted in the state to identify child labourers. The Labour Department will reveal their findings and analysis by April-end.
The survey found that as many as 15 children in the age group of 6 to 8 were involved in child labour in these 10 districts. More child labourers were recorded in the higher age brackets. The department identified about 1,605 children between the ages of 9 to14, who were employed as child labourers.
After amendments made to the Child Labour Act in 2016, children above the age of 14 and up to 18 are now defined as adolescents. The amendment paved the way for adolescents to be employed in industries that are considered non-hazardous. Officials say this could be why the survey found as many as 8,105 adolescents between the ages of 15 to 18 to be employed and not going to school.
â€śAt least 80% to 90 % of these children are from SC/ST communities, it was a shocking find. This is just a sample survey, the numbers would go up if this was a comprehensive study,â€ť said a Labour Department official closely involved with the survey. â€śThis also raises many questions on why only children from SC/ST communities are involved in child labour, itâ€™s not like upper castes donâ€™t have poor people but their children are not engaged in child labour,â€ť he added.
Among the 10 districts surveyed, Vikarabad stood first for having the highest number of child labourers. The district has over 644 children in the age group of 9-14 working as child labourers. Adolescents are much higher, and over 3077 of them are employed in child labour.
The state resource centre is studying the causes behind this finding by researchers. The final report will be submitted to both the state and the Centre.
â€śThis is a huge number for just 52 mandals and 10 districts," said Kancha Ilaiah, activist and writer, who opined that children from SC/ST communities need to be enrolled with state Anganwadis and residential schools from an early age to ensure that they do not drop out of the system and get into child labour.
"If this is the real picture, there is a need for more residential schools for SC/ST children. The state presently has about 860 tribal residential schools. These residential schools should be linked up with kindergarten where children get enrolled from age three. At most villages, there are Anganwadis that can act as kindergarten and attract these children and keep them engaged through play schools. The Anganwadi system is obviously not capturing these children in their system,â€ť he added.