December 24, 2008

Residential schools for child labourers: absence of Central fund affects plans

Govt has planned to set up one such school in every district

KOLKATA, 23rd December, 2008: The state government’s plan to set up residential schools in each of the 19 districts in the state for the welfare of child labourers is facing stiff financial problems.

The project of the new residential schools was included in the central-funded National Child Labour project (NCLP) under which the state government had already sanctioned 924 special schools run by NGOs with an aim of absorbing 34,000 child labourers and bringing another 9,687 into the mainstream education.

Though the state government has agreed to provide an annual subsidy of Rs 6,000 per child staying in these residential schools, the absence of any hike in the Central budget allocation for the NCLP has made NGOs reluctant to take up the scheme.

“We have informed the district magistrates about the residential schools that the state government wants them to set up at the earliest. However, despite work being already started, there is a lack of resources for the proper implementation of the concept. We would want the Centre and organisations like the ILO to provide us with funds,” said state Labour Minister Anadhi Sahu on Monday.

Among the 19 residential schools started on an experimental basis, work at Hooghly is complete. Work at North Dinajpur is to be completed next with Nadia, Burdwan, Birbhum following soon. Each of these residential schools catering to 50 children, on an average, will require 3000 square feet extra space, extra staff and an increase in the amount of pay for the academic staff.

“The Centre provides Rs 2,44,400 for each of the NCLP schools present in India. But since the Centre will not increase the fund for state initiated project of the residential schools, NGOs in Kolkata or South 24-Parganas have not yet come up with their proposal. The Central budget needs to increase under the NCLP and other organisations need to chip in,” said B B Saddiqui, Joint department, state Labour department on the sidelines of a two-day state consultation on the elimination of child labour on Monday.

According to 2001 census, West Bengal has 8,57,000 child labourers. Government officials say the issue of child labour is complex and rooted in social, political and economic conditions of our country.

Sahu said that the concept of setting up residential schools was aimed to provide special care for those rescued child labourers whose parents are either too poor to support them or are unable to earn or those kids who do not have guardians.

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