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RTE Act silent on child labourers
Published on 3 Apr. 2010 11:52 PM IST
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Central Government figures show that 12 million children are engaged in child labour and out of school. Starting April 1 education is the right of every child in India but the Right to Education Act has not made any specific provision to bring the child labours back into regular school.
According to a report in CNN IBN, seven-year-old Anil Patel doesn’t go to school. He works with his parents on a small piece of land 70 kms from Ahmedabad. His parents say they could not afford the school fee. “Even if I decide to teach him, where will I fund his expenses from?” asks Anil’s father Narsinh Patel.
After the sowing season is over, the Patels move to Ahmedabad as migrant labourers for six months and take Anil with them. The seven-year-old doesn’t know what he’s missing out on. Having spent most of his life away from school he says he doesn’t want to attend class.
“I don’t want to go to school. The teachers used to beat me up,” he says.
Like Anil, Kakali Baidya was also denied the right to education. The 14-year-old was studying in class 1 when her family moved to Kolkata for work. The shift cost Kakali her education and the city made her a domestic help.
The Right to Education Act which makes elementary education compulsory for 6-14 year old aims to better the lives of children. But what about those like Anil and Kakali and other children working as labourers, as domestic help?
“There needs to be special packages for them because RTE will be meaningful only if these children are brought into the fold of mainstream schooling,” says NGO’s Save the Child Programme Coordinator Biswaroop Banerjee.
Meanwhile, after the applause, the reality check. The Manmohan Singh government is now faced with questions about implementation of the Right to
Education Act with opposition parties expressing apprehensions about infrastructure and funds required to execute the target envisaged in the law.
According to a report in Economic times, the CPM, which has complained about lack of financial wherewithal for states to implement the Right to Education Act, wants the central government to create conditions to enable children to go to school. “It’s a positive step. Legally it gives the right to education for children. But there are around five crore children below the age of 14 working in India because of their family’s poverty-stricken conditions,” CPM politburo member and CITU leader M K Pandhe said on Friday. This means, the government should address the problem of child labour in the country. Mr Pandhe said unless these children are provided books, meals and clothes they will not be in a position to attend school.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has already written to human resource development minister Kapil Sibal expressing his reservations about provisions of the right to education law. The state government’s lament is that under the law, the entire onus is on it. The state government will be answerable if it failed to provide free and quality education to all students, while the Centre will not be responsible for providing funds for its implementation.
State education minister Partha Dey was quoted by PTI as saying in Kolkata that the government did not enjoy sufficient control over private schools to force them to reserve quota of seats as laid down. “We are, however, committed to implementing the positive provisions of the statute,” he said.
The BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has said that it would be difficult to implement the law. The state’s education minister Archana Chitnis said the state did not have the infrastructure to implement the RTE Act. However, the Human Resource Development ministry is refuting the states’ argument that the Centre needs to share responsibility. According to the ministry, education was a state subject and states were “flushed” with funds. The Finance Commission has given Rs 25,000 crore for all states for five years for RTE.

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