At a time when Maharashtra is being lauded as one of the most developed states in the country, a grim picture emerges of child workers in the state, according to statistics from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.
While over 20 lakh children are classified as main workers, over 6 lakh children are marginal workers in the state. In Pune district, 1.66 lakh children are main workers while over 30,000 children are marginal workers.
The Census of India defines main workers as those who had worked for the major part of the reference period (i.e. 6 months or more) while marginal workers are those who had not worked for the major part of the reference period (i.e. less than 6 months).
The statistics are in three categories — 5-9 years, 10-14 years and 15-19 years. In these respective age groups in Maharashtra, there are 1,44,895, 3,52,021 and 19,61,051 children who are actually working for six months or more throughout the year, which means they hardly go to school.
As far as marginal workers are considered, there are 7,52,418 children between 5 and 19 years working in the state. Of the total workers, girls form a substantial number. There are 8,81,898 girls who are main workers, while 3,50,396 are into marginal work.
In Pune district, 1,66,022 children are main workers while 41,067 are marginal workers. Of them, 53,923 are girl main workers while 17,479 are girl marginal workers.
After the Right to Education Act was enacted in 2009, the concept of out of school children was taken up with more focus. As per the Act, every child between 6-14 years of age should get free and compulsory education.
Last year, the state Ministry of Education, set up a committee under the director of primary education to make a report on how to include out of school children in formal education system. The report has overshot its October 2014 submission deadline.
Mahavir Mane, Director, Primary Education, told Newsline, “The number is so high because of the large number of migrants from outside the state.
We have agricultural workers and others who migrate from one place to another in search of work. But this number is not very high. But construction workers and others from outside are large and this adds to the number of child workers.”
“The government is planning a survey on the number of out of school children. We also in the report have mentioned various schemes to be implemented like special schools for children of tamasha artistes, etc. We will be talking to the concerned minister and secretary to get their opinions too,” he added.