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In pursuit of India’s development goals and strategies, A National Child Labour Policy, was adopted in 1987. The national policy reiterates the directive principle of state policy in India’s Constitution. It seeks to focus on general development programs to benefit children wherever possible and have project based action plans in areas of high concentration of child labour engaged in wage/quasi-wage employment. The National Child Labour Policy was adopted following the Child Labour Act, 1986.

The Ministry of Labour has been implementing the NCLP through the establishment of various projects for the rehabilitation of child workers since 1988. Initially these measures were industry specific and aimed at rehabilitating children working in traditional labour intensive industries. A renewed commitment to fulfilling the constitutional mandate resulted in enlarging the ambit of NCLPs in 1994 to rehabilitate children working in hazardous occupations.

The Action Plan outlined in the Policy for tackling this problem is as follows: 
  • Legislative Action Plan for strict enforcement of Child Labour Act and other labour laws to ensure that children are not employed in hazardous employments, and that the working conditions of children working in non-hazardous areas are regulated in accordance with the provisions of the Child Labour Act. It also entails further identification of additional occupations and processes, which are detrimental to the health and safety of the children.
  • Focusing of General Developmental Programmes for Benefiting Child Labour - As poverty is the root cause of child labour, the action plan emphasizes the need to cover these children and their families also under various poverty alleviation and employment generation schemes of the Government. 
  • Project Based Plan of Action envisages starting of projects in areas of high concentration of child labour. Pursuant to this, in 1988, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme was launched in 9 districts of high child labour endemicity in the country. The Scheme envisages running of special schools for child labour withdrawn from work. In the special schools, these children are provided formal/non-formal education along with vocational training, a stipend of Rs.100 per month; supplementary nutrition and regular health check ups so as to prepare them to join regular mainstream schools. Under the Scheme, funds are given to the District Collectors for running special schools for child labour. Most of these schools are run by the NGOs in the district. 
Government has accordingly been taking proactive steps to tackle this problem through strict enforcement of legislative provisions along with simultaneous rehabilitative measures. State Governments, which are the appropriate implementing authorities, have been conducting regular inspections and raids to detect cases of violations. Since poverty is the root cause of this problem, and enforcement alone cannot help solve it, Government has been laying a lot of emphasis on the rehabilitation of these children and on improving the economic conditions of their families.

During the Tenth Five Year Plan, children in the age group of 5 – 9 years were enrolled directly under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Further, those in the age group of 9 – 14 were admitted to special schools under the NCLP schemes. Besides this, components of healthcare and vocational training were augmented. Schemes for children under the 10th Five Year Plan include the integrated Programme for Street Children which aims to prevent the destitution of children and engineer their withdrawal from the streets by providing facilities like shelter, nutrition, health care, education, recreation and protection against abuse and exploitation.

The strategy outlined for the 11th Five Year Plan includes expanding the NCLP to ensure universal enrollment in the 6 – 14 age group. The government seeks to amend all laws to recognize everyone under the age of 18 as children and to take appropriate measures to protect their rights accordingly.


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