Press Release- 58 child labourers rescued in the capital on the eve of World Day Against Child Labour


New Delhi, 11th June 2013 Ten year old Nadeem (name changed) was extremely confused when he was rescued from a electric appliance making unit in Badali. The confusion became grimmer when he refused to tell his parent’s name and address. Actually, he did not remember his village’s name, not even his parent’s face. Who brought him here and where he came from – are the questions yet to be answered.

Acting on a complaint filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), on the eve of 12th June, the World Against Child Labour, law enforcement authorities have rescued 58 children from 6 different locations in the capital today. 56 boys have been working in various factories engaged in making plastic coolers, fans, polishing and making electric molding, etc., whereas 2 girls were freed from domestic servitude. Rescue operations have been carried out in 5 different factories and at a placement agency running under the garb of welfare organisation (NGO).

Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Founder BBA, said, “When the world would be observing the day against child labour tomorrow, over 215 million children would be languishing in various forms of child labour including slavery in its ugliest form, whereas over 200 million adults are without jobs. We strongly demand that child labour must be made a cognizable and non-bailable offense. Special courts should be established to take time bound action. A fine of at least Rs. 1,00,000 be recovered from each erring employer and an effective rehabilitation must be guaranteed under the law.

It is shameful that in 2010 and 2011 only 1592 employers have been convicted for employing child labourers, i.e, approximately one employer per district per year showing clearly a blatant disregard for the guidelines of the Supreme Court of India.”  He also urged the people to boycott all services and goods produced by the children.

It is pertinent to note that in the period of five years (2007-2011) 1255987 inspections were conducted but only 17884 violations have been detected and 4263 people were convicted.

Most of the child labourers rescued today have been trafficked for forced and bonded labour from West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh after paying advance to their parents. The rescued girls belonged to Uttar Pradesh. Working from 8 am till late night in small, gloomy, and suffocating room in the heat with little or no medical care and attention has resulted in skin rashes and wound marks on their body especially hands, telling the pathetic conditions in which they were forced to live and work. The children were not allowed to talk to their parents back home without the permission of employer. On an average children were getting Rs. 50-100 per week as wage.

Mr. SC Yadav Deputy Labour Commissioner North-West District said, “We will keep executing such exercise in future also. The fine of Rs. 20,000, as per the direction of Supreme Court of India, will be recovered from each and every erring employer along with all the back-wages.”

The SDM present during the rescue operation refused to declare children as bonded labourers citing logistical compulsions of appearance during trial. Thereby berefting the children of comprehensive rehabilitation package under Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1976.

For further information contact:

SDM (Alipur): 9555189618

DLC (North West): 9811165128

Rakesh Senger (BBA): 9212023778

 

Call for images from the IG Khan Memorial Trust



Calling for images

The IG Khan Memorial Trust is looking for images on the broad theme of
Labour and Dignity. The Trust, founded in memory of the late Dr IG Khan (a
historian and teacher at Aligarh Muslim University who worked on a variety
of social issues), organizes an annual lecture and events in association
with the university on the idea of social justice. For more on our work and
past events, see our website www.igkhan.org

We are looking for images on the (very) broad idea of labour and dignity.
These can be photographs, or drawings, or sketches, or calligraphy,
graphics or graffiti. The images can be to do with gender, work, child
labour, manual labour, obsolete labour, rickshaw pullers, paid and unpaid
work…feel free to interpret the idea in any way. For more details on our
event and work see www.igkhan.org

We will use these images in different forms during our memorial event/s on
AMU campus. Photographers and artists interested in sending work can email
us high-resolution copies at igmemorialtrust@gmail.com with permission for
one-time use. We can give credit (please specify credit line) but cannot
afford to pay for use.

Look forward to receiving your images!

 

Mumbai Children putting adults to shame in their eco friendly Diwali Drive #must share


Aarohi 11
Brihatej 12
Pulkit 11
Naman 12
Kshitij 12
Rahul 12
Ibaad 10
Esha 10

Aarohi  Chaudhuri,  11 years old , Mumbai, Nov 13

Last year ,me and my friends ,  the children of Maker Kundan Gardens and UTI Officers Quarters , in Juhu , celebrated a cracker free Diwali , as Crackers and Fireworks are the single largest cause of respiratory diseases like Bronchial Asthma, Chronic Bronchitis and other Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases. The other reasons are -

  • Levels of Air pollution, which are already high in India, reach astronomical levels on Diwali and can be very harmful to the human body.
  • Crackers release a lot of Ultra-violet and Infrared radiation, which are harmful to the eyes and the body parts.
  • Maximum numbers of Burn cases are reported during Diwali due to the improper use of crackers.
  • Humans might be able to protect themselves, but the crackers have a deep physical and mental impact upon animals.
  • Most of the factories manufacturing crackers employ children. So by bursting we are encouraging Child Labour.
  • Noise pollution due to the sound of these crackers is above the permitted levels. Crackers can cause deafness.We also started donation drive and raised Rs 5,000 which were given to NGOGoon, and this year we again continue .Last year, we were a small group of 6 dedicated children, Aarohi, Pulkit, Rahul, Kshitij, Pranesh, , Naman , Ibad, Esha , Brihataj , but now seeing our success we were joined by more children our numbers increased to 9 children. We are operating on a small scale, only in our locality, in Juhu Mumbai. The children are in age group of 9-13 years.The primary reason we started this was a newspaper article I read sometime in October 2011. It brought to light the death of a child due to being accidently hit on the head by one of those popular toy guns.

One thing that makes me grateful to my friends is the answer they gave their parents as to why they were part of this campaign. I expected something like “My friend told me it was a good idea.”, but definitely not, “I am doing this because I know what would have happened if I had been in place of that child who died due to a makeshift gun.” That truly left me elated.

We also run a Facebook page  called   Eco friendly diwali  which we started last year. We intend to donate what we collected to an acclaimed NGO named Goonj as we did last year.

Even though we collect donations for the downtrodden, the driving focus behind our campaign is to celebrate an eco friendly diwali.

Though many children in our neighborhood still burst crackers, we are not disheartened and are still working towards our goal.

We hope adults also join us , So let’s celebrate Diwali (Deepavali) as a festival of lights, not sound!

for further information contact me - aarohiac@gmail.com-022-26611308

 

Constructive Engagement Still Elusive at India’s Second Universal Periodic Review at the UN


United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Delhi, May 29, 2012

India’s human rights record was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) under the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 24 May 2012 in Geneva. The review was marked by a general lack of acceptance of human rights challenges in the country and a mere reiteration of domestic laws, policies and Constitutional provisions by the Government of India (GoI).

Regrettably, the answers of the government did not address critical issues related to gaps in implementation of laws and enjoyment of rights, with India’s Attorney General (who led the government delegation) stating in his opening address that, “India has the ability to self-correct”. According to Miloon Kothari, Convenor of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR): “By employing a defensive and largely selfrighteous position at the HRC, GoI has, at least in its initial response at the HRC, once again lost the opportunity to constructively engage with the UN human rights system and in accepting the enormous human rights challenges it is faced with.”

Of the eighty countries which participated in India’s UPR – a peer-review process of the human rights record of all UN member states – many reiterated the recommendations made during India’s first UPR in 2008 to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention against Enforced Disappearances (CED). GoI accepted both recommendations four years ago but they have remained unfulfilled. On the question of torture, GoI referred to the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB), which is pending before Parliament, without commenting on the non-compliance of the PTB with CAT’s definition of torture.

WGHR regrets that GoI left many questions unanswered, including desisting from commenting on the ratification of CED. WGHR is also disturbed that India dodged the recommendations for repeal and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) by referring to the Supreme Court’s upholding of its constitutionality and by citing Army’s human rights cell as a redressal mechanism. Ms. Vrinda Grover, human rights lawyer and member of WGHR, expressed serious concerns at GoI’s misleading response to the HRC, which camouflaged the systematic impunity enjoyed by armed forces for human rights abuse in the Northeast of the country and Kashmir: “The refusal and reluctance of GoI to squarely address the issue of impunity under AFSPA, in spite of numerous recommendations by international bodies, government appointed committees and UN Special Rapporteurs is unacceptable in a country that proclaims to be the largest democracy in the world.”

Strong recommendations were made to India on the need to impose a de jure moratorium on the death penalty. The government’s response, that simply cited its de facto policy of awarding death penalty in the ‘rarest of rare cases’, is also deeply unsatisfactory in light of statistics that show an increase in the number of death sentences awarded by the courts.

There were recurring concerns by many states on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion and belief, anti-conversion laws and targeting of religious minorities. Surprisingly, while GoI has initiated a Communal Violence Bill to address the issue of violence against religious minorities, it expressed uncertainty before the HRC for the need for such a law. The Indian government’s insistence at the international level that existing laws and judicial decisions are sufficient to deal with egregious violations such as torture and attacks on religious minorities is very disappointing, when new laws on these issues are being debated at the national level.

On the multiple recommendations it received on the need to ratify the Optional Protocol (complaint mechanism) to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), India once again stated that its domestic legal remedies were adequate to address gender-based discrimination. Many states also recommended withdrawal of GoI’s reservation to Article 16 of CEDAW – which guarantees non-discrimination in all matters relating to marriage and family life – and emphasized the need to enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. WGHR deeply regrets the fact that GoI did not engage substantially with recommendations made on issues relating to women, including maternal mortality, prenatal sex selection, infanticide, sexual and gender-based violence, political participation of women, sexual harassment at the workplace, early/child marriage, harmful traditional practices, honour crimes, and trafficking.

Sadly, GoI failed to use the UPR as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to bridge the gap between the law and the grim statistics on various forms of gender-based violence. Its tendency to rely upon domestic law repeatedly to explain the multiple challenges to the attainment of gender equality is disquieting, especially when access to justice remains a barrier for many, and several domestic laws are inconsistent with the universal standards on sex equality.

WGHR, however, welcomes GoI’s positive shift on the issue of homosexuality, which was raised by many countries. The government affirmed its support of the High Court of Delhi judgment decriminalizing homosexuality and stated that it would take a sensitive view of the matter that has been appealed in the Supreme Court. The human rights of children received significant attention at the HRC. States repeatedly raised issues related to child mortality, child labour, child sexual abuse and trafficking. Many governments stressed the need for a reduction of the excessively high rates of maternal and child mortality and urged the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals in that regard. It was also recommended that India ratify the Third Optional Protocol (establishing a communications procedure) to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A notable number of states also reiterated the need to ban all forms of child labour. The GoI stated that it was “fully conscious of issues pertaining to child labour” but that there was “no magic wand to address it”. This stand is oblivious to the fact that the legal scenario in the country has changed as being at school and not at work is now a fundamental right for all children from 6 to 14 backed by a powerful Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The logical corollary of this change is for GoI to revisit its stand and amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

Given the scale of poverty and large-scale denial of socio-economic rights in India, the insufficient attention given to economic, social and cultural rights at the UPR – with the exception of health and education – was disturbing. WGHR hopes, however, that references by member states to the need for more attention to housing for low-income groups and reduction of slums; more focus on poverty alleviation; removal of rural and urban inequities; and improvement of access to water and sanitation, will be turned into recommendations by the HRC before the adoption of the outcome document on Wednesday 30 May, 2012 On the critical issue of the right to adequate and nutritious food, it is disturbing that GoI has dismissed the need to universalise the Public Distribution System, which operates on the basis of an unrealistic poverty line and excludes genuinely poor rural households due to targeting errors, corruption, inefficiency and discrimination in distribution. GoI has also failed to respond to concerns about the rights of peasants and farmers, the issue of unprecedented numbers of farmers’ suicides and the endemic malnourishment that still persists in the country, as recently acknowledged by the Prime Minister himself.

Overall, WGHR regrets that GoI desisted from responding to most of the substantial comments, questions and recommendations by states. According to Miloon Kothari: “It remains to be seen whether GoI will take a constructive view and accept the many recommendations it will receive from the Human Rights Council on 30 May and engage in a genuine dialogue, including cooperation, with the UN between the second and third UPR. The opportunity also still exists, prior to the final adoption of India’s report in September 2012, for GoI to begin a process of serious consultations with civil society and independent actors – including human rights institutions – at home. It is only when such steps, consistent with a democratic mode of governance, are taken that the UN will be convinced that GoI is serious about fostering an atmosphere that will contribute to an improvement in the adverse human rights situation on the ground.”

For more information, contact:

* Miloon Kothari,
Convenor, Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR)
email: miloon.kothari@gmail.com

* Vrinda Grover,
Lawyer –
email: vrindagrover@gmail.com

* Madhu Mehra,
Director, Partners for Law in Development (PLD)
email: programmes@pldindia.org

The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN – a national coalition of fourteen human rights organisations and independent experts – works towards the realisation of all civil, cultural, economic, political and social human rights in India, and towards holding the Indian government accountable to its national and international human rights obligations. For information on WGHR, please visit: http://www.wghr.org

Abandoned by mother, child forced to stay in psychiatry institute


30-Apr-2012

Preetu Venugopalan Nair
PANAJI: Abandoned by his mother, a 15-year-old boy has nowhere to go and is forced to stay at the institute of psychiatry and human behavior (IPHB), as authorities at the state run home for children, Apna Ghar, are refusing to accept him.
The doctor treating the boy at IPHB certified him fit to be discharged almost a fortnight ago. The boy had been detected with conduct disorder and treated for this at IPHB.
Sources said Apna Ghar authorities are refusing to accept the child stating that conduct disorder is a “mental illness” and the boy should be kept at IPHB and not Apna Ghar. The doctor treating the boy has now written to CWC (South) stating that most Apna Ghar inmates show signs of conduct disorder and the child needs to be kept at Apna Ghar, not IPHB.
Confirming receiving the letter, CWC (South) chairperson Martha Mascarenhas said, “We are concerned about the boy’s safety and welfare and are worried that if brought to Apna Ghar his situation may worsen. Also we have to look into the other children’s safety. We are in talks with two homes in which to lodge the boy. In case he is not taken in by either of these homes, he will be brought back to Apna Ghar. We don’t want the child to be troubled anymore.”
She added, “I had met him in IPHB and the tears in his eyes shattered me. I don’t want the child to continue staying with adults in IPHB. The child is special and he needs care and love.” CWC looks into issues of children in need of care and shelter lodged in the state run home.
The minor was referred to IPHB after he, along with two other children, went on a rampage and vandalized the child welfare committee’s (CWC) offices and the dormitory in February this year. The child was allegedly upset as he was kept in a separate room and not allowed to interact with other children in the home.
Psychiatrists said conduct disorder is a psychological problem diagnosed in childhood and juvenile delinquents. “Most of the children in Apna Ghar come to IPHB with such a problem,” a psychiatrist at IPHB said.
CWC claims that on the psychiatrist’s advice, they are trying to arrange some employment for the minor boy. “The doctors have said he needs to be occupied with some job so that it can bring in a change in his life and attitude. I have spoken to NGOs ARZ and SCAN to help the boy get a job,” added Mascarenhas.
When contacted, ARZ representative Arun Pandey said, “This amounts to child labour. What the child requires is care and protection and not employment. He seems to be in a no man’s land in the most child friendly state in India, with Apna Ghar and even NGOs neglecting him.”

Indian girl trapped in life of cigarette rolling


A pack of Bidi cigarettes

A pack of Bidi cigarettes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By RAVI NESSMAN
Associated Press

DHULIYAN, India — Sagira Ansari sits on a dusty sack outside her uneven brick home in this poor town in eastern India, her legs folded beneath her. She cracks her knuckles, then rubs charcoal ash between her palms.

With the unthinking swiftness of a movement performed countless times before, she slashes a naked razor blade into a square-cut leaf to trim off the veins. She drops in flakes of tobacco, packs them with her thumbs, rolls the leaf tightly between her fingers and ties it off with two twists of a red thread.

For eight hours a day, Sagira makes bidis – thin brown cigarettes that are as central to Indian life as chai and flat bread.

She is 11 years old.

Sagira is among hundreds of thousands of children toiling in the hidden corners of rural India. Many work in hazardous industries crucial to the economy: the fiery brick kilns that underpin the building industry, the pesticide-laden fields that produce its food.

Most of the children in Sagira’s town of Dhuliyan in West Bengal state work in the tobacco dust to feed India’s near limitless demand for bidis.

Under Indian law, this is legal.

Sagira, who has deep brown eyes and a wide smile, joined her family’s bidi work when she was seven. At first she just rolled out thread for her older sisters and brother, then she helped finish off the cigarettes, pushing down the open ends. Last year, she graduated to full-scale rolling.

She is not alone. Her best friend, Amira, also rolls bidis. So do Wasima and Jaminoor and the rest of the girls in a neighborhood that is, at its heart, a giant, open-air bidi factory.

Parents and children roll cigarettes on rooftops, in the alleyways, by the roads. One woman draped in a red shawl in the yard behind Sagira’s house breast feeds her baby while rolling. Of the roughly 20,000 families in Dhuliyan, an estimated 95 percent roll bidis to survive.

Sagira is expert enough that even when distracted, her fingers continue to flit blindly through the tobacco shavings in front of her.

She says the work can make her ill, with a cold, a cough, a fever. Her head often aches. So do her fingers.

Sometimes, she takes her woven basket of tendu leaves and tobacco to the banks of the Ganges to roll in a circle with her friends. She stops every so often to splash in the river for a few moments. Then she gets back to work.

“I can’t play around,” she laments.

Manu Seikh, the bidi king of Sagira’s neighborhood, sits on a roadside bench. In front of him lie orderly stacks of rupee bills – tens, fifties, hundreds – large bags filled with one- and two-rupee coins and a small box holding his asthma inhaler.

He and thousands of middlemen like him are the linchpins that provide the veneer of legality to the bidi industry, insulating the powerful companies selling bidis from the families and children rolling them.

Seikh, 66, got his start in a bidi factory when he was 16, back when bidis were rolled on the factory floor.

A 1986 law barred children under 14 from working with bidis and other hazardous industries, but left a huge loophole that allowed children to assist their families with work performed at home.

So now, while the tobacco is threshed, cut and blended in factories, it is then given to Seikh and other middlemen to distribute to families for rolling. The bidis are then brought back to the factory for roasting, packaging and shipping. A pack of 10 to 12 will retail for 6 rupees, or 12 cents.

The informal nature of the work makes it nearly impossible to count how many of India’s 7 million bidi rollers are children, but estimates range from 250,000 to 1 million.

Every noon, adults and children carry baskets and tubs filled with bundles of bidis to Seikh’s corner stall, where his men scan them for quality, reject those deemed substandard and stack the others in shallow wooden boxes. A bookkeeper makes a note in a ledger and hands over a chit for payment.

Then the rollers receive more tobacco and tendu leaves for another day’s work.

Seikh blames poverty for forcing the children to work, and the government for failing to stop it.

“I am very concerned about children not going to school and losing their futures. But we are helpless,” Seikh says.

In his nearby factory, Ranjan Choudhary, 37, also distances himself from blame, even as boys aged about 7 or 8 slide bidis into plastic pouches and seal them on a small stove.

Whatever the child labor laws say, he sees the industry as “a lifeline” for the people.

“It affects children, but for them to survive, this is the only industry here. There is no other source of income,” he said.

The industry’s chief trade group also brushed off responsibility.

“The child has every right to help the mother. As long as we don’t recruit the children to roll bidis, I don’t think we violate any act,” said Umesh Parekh, chief executive of the All India Bidi Industry Federation.

Bidi rollers should “themselves exercise restraint” in using children, he said, adding that his trade group had no plans to fight against child labor.

“The industry is not doing anything for that. It is for the government to do,” he said.

The government is reevaluating its child labor policy, said Mrutyunjay Sarangi, India’s labor secretary, but had yet to decide on any concrete action.

“We are having discussions,” he said.

India has tacitly recognized this Dickensian nightmare with a recent law making education compulsory up to age 14, said Bhavna Mukhopadhya of the Voluntary Health Association of India, an aid group. “Everything has a time, and I think this is the right time to do it … you have to ban child labor across the board, strictly,” she said.

But efforts to change the labor laws are complicated by the bidi industry’s clout in government. One company owner even sits in the national Cabinet.

Sagira’s town was once a textile center where her family for generations wove scarves and sarongs on hand looms.

Mired in poverty, they lived in a mud and thatch hut and could afford only a single meal a day for their 12 children. “We were starving,” said Sagira’s father, Mahmood Ansari.

Then the Ganges caused flooding that destroyed the family’s house – and its loom.

Meanwhile, merchants from other states realized the cheap labor here would be ideal for bidi work.

Sagira’s grandfather turned to bidi rolling, then her father when he turned 12.

Now, every day at 8 a.m., Sagira, her 17-year-old brother and sisters aged 18 and 14 begin a four-hour rolling session. They stop to bathe and have lunch, spend a few hours cutting the tendu leaves into neat squares and then roll for a few more hours.

Because of bidis, his seven children are far better off than he was, Ansari said.

The family gets 75 rupees ($1.50) for every 1,000 bidis rolled, totaling about $150 a month. That’s enough for three meals a day, with a little fish or egg once a week. A few months ago, Ansari used loans to replace the home of tarps and sticks his family had lived in for two decades with an unfinished two-room house of brick and plaster with dirt floors.

But there is not much hope for Sagira’s future.

She’s only been to school twice in the past month; she’s too busy, her mother, Alea Bibi, said. She only goes when there’s a reason, when new books are being handed out or to register for the aid the government gives to bidi rollers as an incentive to educate their children.

When she does show up, she is humiliated for her absences, made to hold her ears with her elbows outstretched and repeatedly sit down and stand up. It doesn’t work, yet each year she graduates to the next grade, regardless of her attendance.

She barely knows math, but can at least count to 25, the number of bidis in a finished bundle.

But at night, after the work is done, her brother, who rarely attends school himself, uses her schoolbooks to teach her to read.

She dreams of being a schoolteacher.

Far more likely, she will get faster at rolling bidis, which will improve her marriage prospects. Then, as so often happens here, her husband might stop working, and she – and eventually her own children – will become the bidi-rolling breadwinners.

Her father sees no way to break the cycle.

“We are destined to roll bidis,” he said.

Follow Nessman at http://www.twitter.com/ravinessman