Wednesday, June 13, 2018

World day against child labour: Only 1.42% of welfare fund utilised in 22 years

Hindustan Times: Lucknow: Wednesday, June 13, 2018.
Out of a total amount of Rs 5.06 crore realised as penalty from those indulging in child labour across the state in the last 22 years, only 1.42% of the fund has been utilised for the welfare and rehabilitation of the rescued children.
Lucknow-based child rights practitioner Umesh Kumar Gupta says that the apex court issued directives in 1996 asking the labour authorities to realise a penalty of up to Rs 20,000 from those found indulging in child labour. This amount was then supposed to be deposited in the welfare fund constituted at the district level. The interest earned from these funds was also supposed to be used for welfare of child labourers, but due to the lacklustre approach of authorities, a major portion of this fund has been lying unutilised for the last 22 years, he adds.
“According to a response to an RTI application filed by me, deputy labour commissioner Dilip Kumar Singh informed that over Rs. 5.06 crore was collected as penalty from 75 districts of the state between December 12, 1996 and March 2018. But only Rs.7.18 lakh, which is merely 1.42 per cent of the total collected money, was utilised for the welfare of rescued child labourers across all districts,” said Gupta.
According to Gupta, the RTI response revealed that not a single person has been penalised for child labour in Shamli, Shambhal and Mainpuri in the last 22 years and only Rs 5,000 and Rs.14000 were collected from Amethi and Sant Kabir Nagar districts respectively in the same duration. The situation gets worse when it comes to utilisation of the amount realised as penalty because the funds have not been spent at all in at least 56 districts since 1996, revealed Gupta.
The authorities, however, blame absence of specific guidelines or any government order for the poor utilization of funds.
State nodal officer and coordinator for child and bonded labour Mohd Rizwan Ali said there are several obstructions in utilising the funds due to the absence of specific guidelines.
He also stressed on the need for relaxation in guidelines on the utilisation of funds. Giving an example he said that according to the court guidelines, the interest earned from the penalty collected after rescuing the child labourer should be used for the welfare of that particular child. However, penalty collection takes times as people often move courts when served notices and the child becomes an adult by the time the penalty is realised and the amount keeps lying unutilised, he emphasised.
“As several crore rupees are lying unutilised, the authorities should be allowed to use them in a collective form for the welfare and rehabilitation of rescued child labourers,” he added.
He went on to say that senior government officials have been requested several times to approach the court and get specific guidelines and relaxations. He further said social organisations working to eliminate child labour could also approach the court in the matter.