As many as 80 percent children of migrant labourers in the state either drop out of schools or have no education at all as they get sucked into the labour workforce, a study released here Sunday reveals.
According to the study by a noted NGO, while Maharashtra government's Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, rules stipulate a tracking system to monitor drop-out rate and absentee children, till date there is no system to ensure enrolment of children into schools or a mechanism to monitor that they do not end up as labourers.
The study was conducted by Child Rights and You (CRY) in collaboration with Vanchit Vikas Sansthan of Ahmednagar district to monitor the health, academic and nutrition status of children working in 10 brick kilns in four sub-districts.
The study report has been released to mark the World Day Against Child Labor next Tuesday, June 12.
"Most of the children in and around the brick kiln areas get drawn into labor as they tend to help their parents by arranging the bricks for drying and collecting the broken and improperly molded bricks," said CRY western regional director Kreeanne Rabadi.
Since they have been helping their peers and parents on a daily basis from a tender age, as they grow older, they are automatically sucked into the trade.
The childhood 'training' includes small errands like sweeping the work places, rolling mud into balls that will eventually be moulded and shaped into bricks by their parents and, at home, helping with household chores like cleaning, and fetching water to free-up time for the adults to devote their time into making bricks.
Though the government invokes the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, to prohibit children under age of 14 from working in brick kilns which is a hazardous process, the CRY study found the ground reality starkly different.
Moreover, the proposed amendment to the bill, intending to align it with the RTE Act, 2009, to prohibit all forms of child labour, ironically, it seeks to dispense with the provision making brick kilns a hazardous process for children above the age of 14 to 18, Rabade pointed out.
"The National Policy of Children, 2013 declares that all children from 0-18 years need to be protected and provided... Yet, 14 to 18-year-old children in this country find themselves unprotected by the very laws designed to ensure their rights," Rabade said
"The RTE Act, 2009, apart from absolving itself of responsibility once they turn 14, even welcomes them into the labour force with open arms," she added.
CRY's work of over three decades among the deprived sections has found a strong link between child labour and absence of schools.
For instance, 48 percent of the schools are at least two km away from the brick kilns and poor transport facilities hamper the children from attending the distant schools.
Besides, 34 percent of all ICDS centres are located at least three km away from the brick kilns, and 53 percent of primary health centres and sub-centres are at least five km away from the brick kilns.
Accordingly, the CRY claimed that there is a large incidence of malnutrition and stunted growth among the children who are exposed to toxic fumes as kilns use waste, rubber tyres and coal as fuel to churn out bricks.