Experience on rehabilitation of children and the challenges in the process from Bangalore Government Children’s Homes
If you enter the CWC, Bangalore Urban hall on any given day you would find several boys being herded. You would also find some adults waiting for their turn to be called in. A few adults would be discussing with the children. A few officers would be rustling with their files and piles of papers. NGO personnel also would be going round with their files and papers meeting the Committee members, children and their parents or employers or identified touts who might be responsible for bringing children from far off places. You may also occasionally find some police men and advocates.
You would certainly overhear conversations between the Committee members and children, parents, employers, touts and the NGO personnel. Questions and questions and questions:
Where are you from?
What were you doing?
Have you attended school? If yes, upto what class have you studied? What is the name of your school, where is it?
If you have not gone to school, why you were not enrolled in school? Or, are you out?
Who brought you to Bangalore?
Who is there back home?
Do you have any contact number of any one you know?
Can you give your home or any address where we can contact your parents or relatives?
Do you have proof of address, age certificate or birth certificate, school certificate, etc?
If you are sent back home, what would you do?
How much were you paying the child for the work?
What was the child doing at your place?
What is your relationship with the child?
The officers would be busy categorizing the children – missing children, run away children, child labour, abused children, drop outs, and many more.
Normally these children are also referred as rescued children-rescued from streets, platforms, hotels, homes, factories, shops and traffickers. Or rescued by police, rescued by ChildLine, Makkala Sahayavani, Labour department or general public, some NGO, begging relief squad, etc. Some children might have been transferred from other CWCs within the state or outside.
While children give their first hand experiences, parents may be either denying or accepting the statements of the children about their working situation, employers may be either agreeing or disagreeing the fact that the children were working for them. NGOs giving written statements about the situation from where the children were rescued and the resistance they might have faced in the process. The support if any obtained by the police, labour department, non cooperation or cooperation by the medical fraternity in giving age certificate etc.
You may also hear CWC members calling people over phone asking for help to trace the address, families of the children who would have given some address, telephone number of their contacts etc. These children might have run away, missing, and trafficked or child labourers. You may also find some CWC members sending e-mails with details of the children, seeking help to trace the parents of children found in Bangalore.
By evening, there are a few happy endings – children either going back to their families or transferred to their native places or sent for education and rehabilitation to fit institutions or getting information about the whereabouts of the parents etc. But largely, CWC members, officers of DWCD and NGO personnel return home with heavy hearts for not being able to do anything with majority of the children, as the children have to continue their stay in the Boy’s Home due to non availability of proper addresses, contacts or a helping hand to trace the families. I am sure children who are forced to stay back may also feel that CWC members have failed them.
It’s easy to rescue…!
It is really easy to rescue. Believe me, inspite of the resistance from employers, children, customers, some times police, parents, local leaders (political or goondas) etc., children can be rescued if you are determined to do so. We have several sharings from ChildLine and other NGOs on how they had to fight with the employers, parents and police to take the children into their custody. You can find some pretext to rescue. Provisions in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2006 are enough to rescue any child in distress – a child in need of care and protection. But, one should be thorough with the Act and also be street smart to convince others while making use of the Act. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 provisions are also of help. But, one should not read all the provisions and start thinking aloud whether it is hazardous or non hazardous sector from where you are rescuing the child, whether the child is attached to the environment where he/she is loitering or working or what if the child is taken away from a loving and caring employer, the group on the street etc.
Many other existing laws and provisions in the Constitution are also of tremendous help to rescue children from working places or from the streets2 .
You are not in school during school hours, you better come before CWC.
You must be a child who has lost way to go back to your home; help is available come to CWC.
Your situation on the street or railway platform is not going to help you in any way. You may become an addict, you need treatment. Come to CWC.
You are working, you will be taken to CWC
You look like being abused, let us go to police and then to CWC.
We have got information that you work here, come with us to CWC.
If you continue to stay here, you will be in big trouble. Let us go to CWC.
Hurdles in rescuing:
Rescue means to free from danger or evil. Some of the hurdles the rescue teams face are as follows:
Who has to decide whether a place is dangerous or evil to children and take a decision to rescue? (Government, NGO, Private bodies, Individuals, media, etc)
Poverty and poverty related issues still act as a big hurdle while rescuing children from labour.
Lack of coordination between ChildLines/Makkala Sahayavani and other departments (police, labour, DWCD, CWC, and others)
In a majority of cases, police refuse to come with the rescue team.
Every rescue is not happening with full information. Some times, you cannot tell the child that he/she is being rescued from the station or street for her/his good. The child may refuse to be rescued.
Not all team members who go for rescue are equipped with adequate information.
Lack of coordination between railway police and state police. The conflict may result in disasters.
Police hesitate to file FIR-First Information Reports (normally FIRs are not filed in case of child labour, even if it is trafficking, bonded labour or forced labour, abuse etc).
Resistance by employers at the time of rescue, filing legal cases against rescue party (trespass, illegal detention of child). Our police and courts are accepting such cases and even pass interim orders that rescue party can be prosecuted and trialed. This sends wrong messages to all who are in to rescue operations.
In many cases, children won’t give accurate information in the first interaction (they may not be knowing details about the names of the employers, salary or wages, address of their native place etc).
Police and some times, NGOs throw up their hands and say ‘No vehicle’, no personnel to take action (ChildLines and Makkala Sahayavani also behave like this on several occasions). This results in public not becoming enthusiastic to file complaints.
There is no linkage with the Education department and the labour department in terms of understanding on the concept of Child labour (age, numbers and the situation).
Sec. 17 officers as described in the CLPRA have hardly taken note of rescuing children from labour.
There is a lot of talk on rescuing, but no trained personnel on how to conduct a rescue operation (preparation, mandatory reporting and measures to be followed, presence of lady officers in case of rescuing girls, vehicles etc.). Largely, the NGO personnel with some instincts or with little instructions on the basis of their previous experience (largely organizational experience) attempt to rescue. Protocols are hardly taken note of, resulting in lot of friction between the employers and the rescue team. Many a times, the accompanying police would be mute spectators. Labour officers hesitate to enter premises (even though they have a provision).
Not all rescues are in large numbers (like gold industry, zari industry, brick industry, garment industry, packing, silk twisting/weaving, etc). Rescuing individual children normally do not attract attention.
Not all child labour cases are in hazardous situation. We have not experienced the invocation of provisions of the CLPRA on Non hazardous sector, violation of the Act and regulator features (actions taken).
Doctors, Government Doctors largely refuse to conduct medical examination and certification of age. Even if they give the age, bracket would be very vague and inconclusive (may be between 14 to18). How to give benefit to the child is the question here.
In the light of Constitutional provisions and the concept of omission and commission, every child out of school has to be rescued for educational rehabilitation. At the same time, every person who is responsible – either omitted taking action (that include teachers, police, labour officers and others or commission who have directly sent a child for labour, who have pulled out the child from school, who have obstructed enrolment to school, who have taken services of a child for labour) should be booked under constitutional violations. Why are we not taking these provisions into consideration in our operations?
Definition of rescue not present
Juvenile Justice Act has no direct reference to rescuing of children.
Sec. 32 mentions about who can produce a child in need of care and protection. But does not elaborate or explains the mechanism to be adopted for rescuing children if they are on the streets or into labour.
Production before Committee
(1) Any child in need of care and protection may be produced before the Committee by one of the following persons. –
Provided that the child shall be produced before the Committee without any loss of time but within a period of twenty-four hours excluding the time necessary for the journey.
(2) The State Government may make rules consistent with this Act, to provide for the manner of making the report and to the Committee and the manner of sending and entrusting the child to children's home pending the inquiry.
Sec. 2 of JJ Act defines a child labour and employing children for begging in the following sections.
2. (b) "begging" means –
i. soliciting or receiving alms in a public place or entering into any private premises for the purpose of soliciting or receiving alms, whether under any pretence'
(ia) who is found begging, or who is either a street child or a working child;
2. (d) CINOCAP: viii. Who is being or is likely to be abused for unconscionable gains,
2. k) "juvenile" or "child" means a person who has not completed eighteenth year of age;
24. Employment of juvenile or child for begging
i. Whoever, employs or uses any juvenile or the child for the purpose or causes any juvenile to beg shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
ii. Whoever, having the actual charge of, or control over, a juvenile or the child abets the commission of the offence punishable under sub-section (1), shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and shall also be liable to fine.
26. Exploitation of juvenile or child employee
Whoever ostensibly procures a juvenile or the child for the purpose of hazardous employment keeps him in bondage and withholds his earnings or uses such earning for his own purposes shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
PROTOCOL On Procedures for Elimination of Child Labour and Protection of the Child: Prepared by Balprafulata, Pratham, Saathi, UNICEF, Mumbai, in discussion with the Office of the Labour Commissioner, Maharashtra August - December 2007 defines Rescue operations as follows:
Rescue operation shall include all the processes to be adopted, with a view to removing any child labourer or several children, from the situation of labour, towards securing the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the child and towards prosecuting the employers and for creating situations of stringent punishments towards deterring employers from using children for purposes of labour.
The next issue after rescuing is the need for immediate protective accommodation, counseling, conducting case studies, taking relevant information and providing if need be legal aid. All these are needed to take logical steps towards rehabilitation. But in the current situation, not all homes run by DWCD are equipped to take this task (lack of personnel, lack of training, lack of motivation. Delay in providing protection and counseling resulting in abuse, running away, committing suicide, etc)
Prosecution in case of all child labourers is not happening due to several other bundled reasons. Delay in taking statements from the employers and children, filing of papers, hearings, passing judgment. Normally children do not get any benefit out of this process.
In the case of run away children, children who are addicted to street life, drugs, easy money, living in a group of like minded children on the streets and platforms, very little is done to help them. In reality, most of the Government homes are clueless on what to do. We largely depend on the NGOs for most of the help.
It will be repetition! Definition, mechanism, who should take the responsibility of rehabilitation, is very vague in all most all legal documents. Rehabilitation is practiced but not with quality. Rehabilitation from CWCs or Government homes although is happening, it is not systematic. Follow-up which is vital to all rehabilitation is largely missing.
Rehabilitation is normally defined as restoration to a state of good condition or operation. It also means to put back what was once there in good condition and not always find something new elsewhere.
The preamble of The Juvenile Justice Act 2006 reads as follows ‘An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, by providing for proper care, protection and treatment, by catering to their development needs, and by adopting a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposition of matters in the best interest of children and for their ultimate rehabilitation through various institutions established under this enactment’.
Even in later stages the Act, while referring to Rehabilitation keeps mentioning various institutional care. Secondly, education is mentioned as one of the measures for rehabilitation. It also refers to establishment of inspection committees to over see rehabilitation. The act also prescribes that there should be proper interaction and coordination among various departments in rehabilitation.
But, we are placing children back home!
CWC Bangalore which started its operations in 2003 has taken home placement as its primary objective. We make use of every possible method (we are not bothered whether such measures are in the book or not). In the beginning the Government home staff felt that it is not a good practice. They wanted to children to be in the home. The strength (numbers) was more important. A thinned down institution is not good!
We are making use of help from NGOs, network organizations, internet, friends, relatives, students, Government officials, media and many more.
Most of the NGOs (ECHO, BOSCO, APSA, SOS, YMCA, SATHI, etc) are helping in counseling the children to get first hand information from children, tracing the families, taking the children to trace families (under a proper order given to the organization from CWC), conducting camps to help the children get de-addicted or to develop a sense of responsibility or meaning in life so that they can get back to their education and family, follow up with the home placed child, reporting about the situation etc.
We have also introduced a certification of appreciation to any individual who helps in tracing the family of a child and did a follow up visit. This is motivating the students and NGO personnel to come forward to help the efforts of CWC and the DWCD.
Apart from Government institutions, there are several other initiatives rescuing children from difficult situations. Recently a CSR initiative also came forward to rescue children. But, what is lacking is a few hands to rehabilitate (short stay, long term stay, immediate home enquiry, escort, follow-up and hand holding, counseling) which are essential after rescuing any child from working condition.
Not all home reunifications are successful. We probably have a single digit percentage of children coming back to streets. The failure may be due to improper home study, lack of follow up, lack of systems to keep the child with the family, family problems, parental problems or simply the child wants to be out. By this, one should not jump to a conclusion that family or home placement is not working and that it should be abandoned. No, family is the first place for children. We should put all efforts to send children back home with due support system, while learning and reinforcing the methodology. We have to make use of the existing Government schemes to help the families and children, with sponsorship for education, health etc. wherever necessary. Well, there are some children who cannot stay with their families. They return to streets. For such children we need to design and develop long term pans for their rehabilitation.
Moreover, what we need is both financial resources and trained personnel to handle rescue and rehabilitation of children.
A few provisions from various laws including the Constitution, prevailing in India that can be invoked for rescuing and rehabilitation of child labour.
Article 21: A Right to Education
The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State, by law, may determine.
Article 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour.
(1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
(2) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purpose, and in imposing such service the State shall not made any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them.
Article 24: Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.
No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed in work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
Article 39: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
Indian Penal Code, 1860
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJA), 2000
The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
The Schedule Castes and the Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989
Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933
Other Key Labour legislations
Some of the other labour laws such as, the Shops and Establishment Acts of various States, the Factories Act, 1948, the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, the Mines Act, 1952; the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958; the Apprentices Act, 1961; and the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 can also be used to take action against the offenders.
The Working Children (rescue, Rehabilitation And Welfare) Bill, 2006
1. National seminar on the rehabilitation of street/ runaway children: sharing of experiences and the way forward, Dates: 14th and 15th Oct. 08.
2. In most cases of children working in hotels, small industries, shops, it is found that they are either run away children or trafficked for labour and they need help to be rescued and rehabilitated or placed back with their original family.
Member, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights
* Executive Director, CRT-Child Rights Trust, 4606, 6th Floor, High Point IV, Palace Road, Bangalore 560001
* Ex-Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee, Bangalore Urban (2003-2009)
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