Caritas India Co-Convenes the ‘Campaign Against Child Labour’ in West Bengal

Caritas India has joined the efforts to revive the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) in West Bengal (henceforth the Campaign), to enable a strong civil society mobilisation to make the state free from child labour. The network comprises several NGOs and INGOs that have been engaged on child rights issues in the state with national and international presence. 

A meeting of CACL was held at Caritas India office in Kolkata on March 5, 2019, to discuss the action agenda for the Campaign for the year 2019. West Bengal, comprising 29.9 million child population, is ranked 7th among the most child labour prone states of India. The data on child labour in different sectors is either unavailable or off the public domain, which prevents tailored action strategies. The children in West Bengal are engaged in various occupations, not limited to brick kilns and tea gardens.

The Campaign in the past 15 years has led various advocacy campaigns and evidence building missions to highlight the issue of child labour in the state, shared Mr. Prabir Basu (State CACL Convenor)  and Mr. Biplob Das, CACL National Executive Member. Realising the need for a strong civil society response to rid West Bengal of the rampant child labour in different occupations, Caritas India joined the Campaign as its Co-convenor to rejuvenate the Campaign. The Government of India ratified the ILO Convention on the minimum age of employment (138) and worst form of child labour (182) in 2017 committing to end all forms of child labour below 18 years of age. This required data to estimate the number of working children. Ms. Asha Ekka, Manager- East Zone, Caritas India, appealed to the NGOs to share their data on child labour to be able to strike an evidence-based dialogue with the Government.

Considering that in 2019, India will be going to the polls, the Campaign has decided to enable the children and CSOs to engage with their duty bearers on the issue of their rights. Besides, India’s progress on UNCRC will be scrutinised by other countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2020. Seeing the importance of both the processes, the Campaign arrived at the following decisions to:

  • Facilitate the Children’s Review of the child rights status in the state to contribute to the drafting of the ‘Shadow Report on UNCRC’, approaching 30 years of UNCRC’s ratification by India
  • Compilation of the existing data on child labour available with NGOs, to estimate the number of child labourers in the state and demand an official mapping of it as per the National Child Labour Project
  • Observance of a state-wide Anti-Child Labour Day to create mass awareness, on June 12

The Campaign recognises that child labour is an outcome of adult unemployment and the failure of the social safety net and requires political will and executive actions to translate international commitments into change outcomes for children. While the state Campaign will focus on state-specific scenario on child labour, nationally it is converging with the Right to Education Forum to demand the just implementation of the Act. In days to come, the Campaign will firm its way forward basing on the above decisions towards state policy actions and programmes for banning child labour in all sectors up to the age of 18 years, strengthening the existing public mechanism equipped with more strength from the ratification of the ILO Conventions.