An NGO has approached the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Mumbai seeking direct state-to-state transfers of children rescued in raids against child labour. In a recent drive by the Mumbai Police, over 40 children each from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were rescued from child labour. The NGO, Pratham, wrote last week to the Mumbai CWC requesting that instead of handing over the custody of the children to their parents, they should instead by sent to their homes by involving the local district authorities in their home state.
“There is an apprehension that children, especially those below the age of 14 years, may be returned to child labour if they are not given access to benefits after being rescued. For such children, we have requested that the local district authorities of their home states be involved,” said Kishor Bhamre, programme director of Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children.
Under current procedure, if parents come to seek custody of the children after they are rescued and lodged in a children’s home, the CWC takes a decision on transfer of custody. According to the Juvenile Justice Act, in case of direct state-to-state transfer, the CWC, if satisfied after an inquiry that it is in the “best interest” of the child, can order his or her transfer after due consultation with the CWC of the child’s home district as soon as possible. Through such transfers, parents and children can be made aware of benefits that they can avail of various schemes put in place to prevent child labour, experts say.
“For instance, the Labour Department in Bihar immediately gives Rs 3,000 to any child rescued. The Bihar government also has a scheme where Rs 25,000 are put in a fixed deposit in the name of the child. The interest of this deposit can be used for the child’s education. If the children are transferred in coordination with the local district authorities, the parents can be made aware of these benefits to ensure the child is not sent back as child labour again,” said Bhamre.
In a recent inter-state collaboration between Maharashtra and Bihar on child labour and trafficking, panelists, including officials of the Mumbai police and CWC members, discussed the possibility of beginning state-to-state transfers of children rescued in the recent drive as a pilot project. “We had suggested the idea of direct transfer of children to the state capital of the their home states.
For instance, in case of Bihar in Patna. We are in the process of forming a centralised databank of children who were rescued to make monitoring easy. If they are sent back to their remote districts directly or to their parents, monitoring becomes difficult and increases chances of them being re-trafficked,” said Shashank Shekhar, a Supreme Court advocate who had filed a PIL on the issue of child labour in Bihar and had participated in the inter-state collaboration in December. Members of the Mumbai CWC could not be reached for a comment on the NGO’s proposal.