Visakhapatnam: Their lost childhood needs to be restored
- As the onus of earning a living is laid on children's fragile shoulders, they end up giving a skip to their school and taking up the drudgery that comes their way
- In times of the pandemic, the scenario has become even worse as many families lost their source of income
Visakhapatnam: Lakshmi is hardly 12-year-old. But her life turned topsy-turvy when her father abandoned her mother a few years back. And her mother passed away due to illness a year ago.
Though she is with her grandparents, she discontinued her studies and toils in fish and mutton shops to assist her grannies financially. Her day is usually long and tiresome.
Lakshmi is one among scores of children employed across the district as child labourers. As the onus of earning a living is laid on children's fragile shoulders, they end up giving a skip to their school and taking up the drudgery that comes their way.
In times of the pandemic, the scenario has become even more worse as many families lost their source of income.
Despite the laws in place, exploitation, poverty and other factors continue to push children into child labour.
In factories, outlets and shops, children below 14 years are often employed discreetly to take up cleaning jobs or essay the role of helpers so that employers can make do with an effective cost-cutting mechanism while extracting more work from children. "In city limits alone, around 15 children have recently been reunited with their families. They were spotted in small outlets, construction sites, sheds, eateries, etc., during 'Operation Muskaan' carried out by the Labour Department. After facilitating counselling to their parents, the children have been handed over to them," explains M Ravi Babu, Superintendent at the office of Joint Commissioner of Labour, ahead of the 'World Day Against Child Labour'.
Apart from the Labour Department, Visakhapatnam police also rescued children through Operation Muskaan. The percentage of child labour, department officials say, has been brought down to a considerable extent.
The launch of Operation Muskaan, special drives carried out by the Labour Department, increased awareness about child helplines, among others, appear to be effective in restoring the lost childhood of the children.
Chodavaram, Bheemunipatnam, Elamanchili, Narsipatnam and slum areas across Visakhapatnam were the places where child labour was frequently identified.
"Unfortunately, a complete survey is not being carried out as far as child labourers are concerned. Having proper statistics will aid in roping in NGOs and other associations to help eradicate child labour by working in tandem with the department. Many children take up adult jobs even now. The survey needs to be intensified and measures should be taken to bring these children back to school," opines B Hari Venkata Ramana, secretary of Visakha Forum for Child Rights.
Along with helpline number 1098, child labour complaints can also be registered through platform for effective enforcement for no child labour (PENCiL), among other platforms.