Agra, Oct 21: In an effort to make Agra a child-friendly city, social activists and representatives of several voluntary organisations Sunday came together to launch a campaign against child labour in the Taj city.
“Banning employment of children below 14 years will help effective enforcement of the Right to Education, which mandates free and compulsory education for all children below 14 years,” Rakesh Sharma, president of Bachpan Bachao Abhiyan (save childhood campaign) said.
The central government in August approved an amendment to the child and adolescent labour (prohibition) law that sought to put a comprehensive ban on the employment of children under 18 years of age in hazardous occupations, which too were re-classified.
“Children between 14-18 years have been defined as adolescents in the new law,” said Shravan Kumar Singh, convenor of Bachpan Bachao Abhiyan.
Child rights activist Naresh Paras said there was an urgent need for a collective campaign to mobilise public opinion and ensure that all children go to school.
Agreed social activist Anand Rai. “Due to lack of awareness, children are still being employed and exploited. The government agencies are not doing enough. The media too needs to be sensitised on the issue,” he said.
Paras also stressed that continuous monitoring by various social organisations and authorities was important to fight the social malady.
“We need continuous monitoring of various welfare schemes for children. Police should take strict action against gangs exploiting children as beggars in the city. Besides, protection homes and beggar rehabilitation centres must work transparently,” Naresh Paras said.
Sunil Chopra, a retired colonel and activist, pointed out that certain industries where children were being hired and exploited.
“Agra is infamous for exploitation of children in several industries, particularly in leather, petha and handicrafts. A proper survey should be conducted and areas identified for effective rehabilitation of childre. Medical camps for destitutes should also be conducted,” Chopra said.
The campaign has drawn up a strategy to involve several agencies to develop playgrounds and parks, traffic management around schools, security for girl students and organisation of cultural programmes for children.
Bachpan Bachao Abhiyan has also approached the Agra Municipal Corporation to pitch in. Among the initiatives suggested include a fair for city children every week, where workshops on theatre, painting and music, health check-up camps and interactive sessions could be organised.