By Our Reporter
Shillong: The National Commission for Protection of Child’s Right (NCPCR) has come down heavily on the State Government for its lackadaisical attitude in addressing the problem of child labour in the State especially in Jaintia Hills.
The NCPCR has also castigated the State Government for taking the issue very lightly. “They (government functionaries) are least bothered about children working in the mining areas,” NCPCR member Yogesh Dube said on Friday.
Expressing disappointment over the State Government’s dormant stance, Dube said the Commission is very concerned about the prevalence of child labour in Jaintia Hills coupled with the lack of educational and medical attention to them besides lack of ICDC centres in the mining areas.
The NCPCR also lambasted the government for its short sightedness in adopting a proper method to address this problem. “We were surprised to learn that there is not even a single labour inspector and the previous one has been promoted to the rank of a Deputy Labour Commissioner which is a clear indication of the short sightedness of the government,” Dube said. Briefing the press after a meeting with Meghalaya Chief Secretary WMS Pariat and officials of Labour, Social Welfare, Police and other departments at the Secretariat here on Friday, Dube said the Commission has directed the State Government to establish a State Commission for Child’s Right.
During their visit to the mining areas in Jaintia Hills on Friday in the presence of the Deputy Labour Commissioner (DLC), members of the Commission rescued two children, one from Ummulong while he was working in a side drain and another from 8 mile area.
“The condition in which the children are working is pathetic and unhealthy. They were asked to enter the pit hole or the rat hole which in obvious circumstances could damage the respiratory organs of a child due to the fume and other harmful particles present in the mines,” the NCPCR member added.
Accordingly, an FIR has been filed with the Jowai PS on Friday soon after the rescue by the DLC but after receiving a copy of the FIR, the Commission expressed surprise over the format in which the FIR was filed.
“It was more like an application and not an FIR. There was no stamp and it was in no way a formal FIR,” Dube stated.
During their visit to Jaintia Hills, the Commission took note of the fact that coal mine owners had driven away all the child labourers from the mining areas prior to the visit of the team.
It was mentioned that the Commission had sent recommendation to the State Government earlier seeking response on the corrective measures taken up in addressing the child labour problem but lack of response from the State Government in replying back forced the Commission to depute a team to the State.
Reacting to a statistic presented by the State Government on the number of child labourers in the State, which put the figure at 222, the Commission termed the number as ‘unacceptable’, while stating that “even a single child working in hazardous condition is equally important for the Commission to take serious note of”.
Meanwhile, the NCPCR directed the State Government to write to the Central Pollution Control Board to curb pollution in the State especially in Jaintia Hills where the pollution level is very high with mining activities on the rise.
The Commission has also asked the government to take up this issue with the Director General of Mining and Safety and the Ministry of Labour to ensure labour schemes in this area. It has also asked the social welfare department to extend ICDC centres in mining areas.
When apprised of the absence of a mining policy to regulate mining activities in the State, Dube said, “I have asked the Chief Secretary to see that a proper mechanism is put into place as soon as possible to check such hazardous mining activities being carried out.”
Further, the Commission directed the State Labour Commission to take this issue as a campaign and make Jaintia Hills free of child labour.
Another recommendation asks the State Government to tie up with the Tata Institute of Mumbai to conduct a survey on child labour in Jaintia Hills and accordingly send reports to the Commission. “We will go through the findings and will soon send our reports to the State Government,” they informed.
The NCPCR member also informed that after the Commission’s intervention, the State Government has informed that a budgetary allocation has already been worked out.
On a positive note, the Commission appreciated the fact that the State Government has been able to conduct child surveys, mapping of child drop-outs in the State, taking corrective measures to establish children’s homes, implementing the RTE Act, setting up of check posts in border areas by the police department and profiling of agencies of people offering jobs.
The commission, however, stated that it would closely monitor the State Government in this aspect, while expressing hope that the government would take up the issue seriously for the benefit of the children.