Thursday, February 4, 2010

Child labour widespread in Kashmir: Study

Srinagar, Feb 4: More than 50 percent children in Kashmir are directly or indirectly involved in one or other form of child labour and there are more than 2.50 lakh child workers in the age group of 6-16 years working in various fields of handicrafts sector, a latest study reveals. “About 47 percent of the total number of children work outside their homes regularly for earning and supporting their families. A dominant number of these work in different fields of the handicrafts sector,” the research “Life Conditions of Child Labourers in Jammu and Kashmir” carried by Valley’s noted sociologist, Dr Bashir Ahmad Dabla, reveals. However, it says that child labours working in handicrafts sector have come under the focus of academicians, planners, experts and administrators. “Several programmes and schemes have been initiated by the governmental and non-governmental organizations for their overall welfare,” it said. But the researcher has expressed deep concern over the plight of children who are being used as domestic help. “A significant number of children in the age groups of 6-11 and 11-above, mainly from rural areas, work in the house of businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians, technicians, neo-rich groups and middle class families in the cities and towns. The service conditions of these children are pathetic,” the research reveals. “In comparison to child labours in other sectors, children in this sector have remained ignored on the part of planners and experts. The plight of these unfortunate children continues without any notice by the society,” it added. The research revealed that there were no standards of wages for these child labours at the official or unofficial level. “Their wages are determined solely by the heads of the households according to their wishes and preferences. Fundamental rights of these children are robbed by the individuals and groups which claim to be their protectors.” On protection of child rights, Prof Dabla says, “Though some programmes and schemes regarding the eradication of child labour in the state were initiated in the recent past by the government, its impact has not been felt by the suffering children and their families. No fundamental change has occurred in the concerned economic sectors and sections of the society.” Prof Dabla says that last 20-years of conflict has worsened the situation. “The continuous political instability in the state has extreme negative impact on child labours. The impact of state sponsored child-welfare schemes have not proved beneficial to the deserving section of the population. It was also observed that no major or minor non-governmental effort was initiated in this area. The governmental failure was equally matched by the public apathy towards child labours,” he added. On formulation and enforcement of laws related to child labour, the study said, “Though laws were formulated, empirical reality clearly reveals that there has been very less degree of impact on child labours. The government effort lacked the realist perspective and long tem/short term planning.” On eradication of child labour and protection of child rights, Prof Dabla said that there was a need to make a comprehensive, multidimensional and development oriented study of child labours. “Also is there is need to make an objective assessment of the wage structure, nature of economic exploitation and impact of governmental programmes related to child labour,” he suggested. He also advocated for long-term policy formulation and intervention. “There is need to present ideas and suggestions for long-term policy formulation keeping in view the crucial existing problems of child labour in Kashmir, especially in the context of 20-years of conflict,” he added. Prof Dabla also advised to identify and elaborate the role of NGOs in the complex problem of child labour.

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