The Edith Wilkins Street Children Foundation, India has been constantly championing child rights issues, battling child labour and also actively establishing non-formal education centres for child labourers working in close coordination with Government agencies including the labour department, Government of West Bengal.
The Edith Wilkins Street Children Foundation (EWSCF) – a not for profit organisation (based in Cork) – provides care and protective support to street children, victims of abuse and sex trafficking, child labourers and other at risk minors. There are more than 200 children being taken care of by the foundation.
According to data released by Government of India, every 11th child is working in India (5 to 18 years.)
Child Labour Statistics (India):
- 10.13 million child labourers between 5-14 years in India (2011 census data)
- Child labour in 2011 has decreased by around 20 percent from 2001 census figures
- There are 22.87 million working children in India between 15-18 years
- As per 2011 census, one in 11 children are working in India (5-18 years)
- 80 percent of the child labour in India is concentrated in rural areas
- ILO 2016 data indicates that there are 152 million working children in the world between 5-17 years, of which 23.8 million children are in India
- So 16 percent of the working children (or every 6th working child) in this age group is in India
According to UNICEF, child labourers in India can be found working in brick kilns, carpet weaving, garment making, domestic service, food and refreshment services (tea stalls and restaurants), agriculture, fisheries, mining and also in the fireworks industry.
The Ministry of Labour under National Child Labour Project schemes has been active in establishing non-formal education centres for child labourers since 1998.
In 2011, EWSCF was selected as the nodal agency for the Darjeeling District in the state of West Bengal in India. Out of the 19 NCLP schools established throughout the District, EWSCF is currently running one and acting as a coordinating body (i.e. supervising, monitoring and evaluating) for the remainder.
The NCLP school school is run in the EWSCF premises in Darjeeling. The survey team regularly visits the local marketplace to ensure easy access for those children working in the tea stands, hotels, shops and restaurants.
Once enrolled in the NCLP, the medical, nutritional and all round welfare of the children are taken care of by EWSCF. Child labour rescue raids are also conducted from time to time with care planning and co-ordination with the Labour Department, Police and child line. Once rescued from the hazardous working environment the children are placed in the EWSCF.
“Parents and families are contacted and the repatriation of the rescued kids are done. Individual and group counseling are also given to the kids to make them understand the importance of education and to prepare them from a world away from exploitation and child labour” stated Anuja Ghaley, Director, EWSCF.
The EWSCF works in close coordination with the Labour Department of the Government of West Bengal to curb and prevent this menace.
Child Labour inspection and raids are conducted by the Labour Department ( Nodal) along with Police department, District Child Protection Unit and The Edith Wilkins Street Children Foundation, Darjeeling.
From 2012 to 2019, total of 246 inspections have been conducted where – 174 children have been rescued and rehabilitated at EWSCF” stated Asish Subba, Assistant Labour Commissioner and Project Director, NCLP.
As per the Supreme Court ruling, persons employing child labours are fined an amount of Rs 20,000/-. A total amount of Rs 16,42,928/- in the account of Child Labour Rehabilitation cum Welfare Fund has been collected in the way of fines which is used for welfare of the rescued children.
Awareness programmes are conducted round the year to sensitise the public against child labour. Recently a sit and draw competition was organised on 25th November to commemorate the Child Rights week. Raju (name changed) a student of NCLP school, EWSCF bagged the second prize. Along with this EWSCF and the Labour Department pasted anti-child labour stickers and posters in and around Darjeeling town.