SHILLONG: Stung by the recent criticism from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on the prevalence of child labour in Meghalaya, Labour Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh on Wednesday sought statistical data and action-taken reports from all the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) in the State.
Coming down heavily on the functioning of the CWCs, Lyngdoh questioned the prevalence of lacunas and the habit of taking excuses for lapses.
Lyngdoh made the remarks during a meeting held here on Wednesday to observe the International Day against Child Labour organised by the Office of the Labour Commissioner in collaboration with Childline, Shillong.
Lyngdoh also asked the concerned agencies looking after the welfare of children to submit the action-taken reports within a stipulated time frame to ensure that the Child Labour (Prohibition ad Regulation) Act, 1986 is implemented in its true spirit.
“The Laws have been declared but the blame game is going on relentlessly in the State between the different line departments and there is a need to stop this blame game and start looking for solutions,” Lyngdoh asserted.
When the District Child Protector Officer of East Khasi Hills apprised the Minister of the existence of five cases registered with the CWC in the district in 2011-2012, Lyngdoh sought a written report on the action taken by the Social Welfare Department on the cases referred by the respective CWC.
Lyngdoh also asked the District Child Protection Officer of the district to complete its survey on child labour within a stipulated timeframe, and at the same time, asked the CWCs to implement the child tracking system as was being done in other states.
Lyngdoh also criticized the Special Task Force set up by the Social Welfare Department for not following up on reported cases, despite the task force meeting every week.
“We must ensure that the task force has foot soldiers (Dorbar Shnong) and sub-task force,” she added.
Suggestions to improve functioning of all the line departments and abolishment of child labour in the state also poured in from Rangbah Shnong and Seng Kynthei of various localities of the city who unanimously stressed on the need to initiate more awareness programmes for the public on the Child Labour Act and the punishments attached. Rangbah Shnong of Mawkhar, WHD Syngkon, also a lawyer by profession, stated that there are difficulties in implementing the Act, and it is not an easy task to moot out an action plan to solve this problem.
“Dorbar Shnong plays an important in curbing and eradicating this menace as it holds the key to every household located within its jurisdiction,” Syngkon said adding that the Dorbar Shnong can initiate action plans by registering all the local residents, tenants, hotels and restaurants.
Reacting to statements which justified the employment of small children as a mean to improve the livelihood of the family, Syngkon said “In line with this, children become the worse sufferers as they lose out on education, love and care. So I suggest that everything should be checked especially with the Right to Education (RTE) in place.”
On the point raised by the Coordinator of Child Line, Shillong with regard to low conviction rate and lack of facilities in shelter homes, the Labour Minister said, “The reason for low conviction is because we are probably not looking for correct mechanisms to place the case and this can also be attributed to the difference in the permissible age mentioned in the Child Labour Act and Juvenile Act.”
Calling upon the line departments and the traditional bodies to work hand in hand to eradicate this problem once and for all, Lyngdoh said, “The line departments needs to set the ball rolling even if it takes time.”