The total number of working children in the country has declined from 1.26 crore as per the Census 2001 to 43.53 lakh as per Census 2011 which shows 65 per cent reduction. But still Caritas India thinks that tackling the problem of children working and not going to school is a critical problem for which a developing country like India should feel ashamed about.

Present day, the numbers of child working population are increasing day by day in the developing and under developed countries. Actually the child working populations are called as child labor whose age ranged from 5 to 14 years. In India, the children are engaged mostly in various low-key jobs of the unorganized sectors which are hazardous in situation. Nearly 85 per cent of child laborers in India are hard-to- reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the unorganized sector, both rural and urban, within the family or in household-based units.

Caritas India supports a programme to two NGOs in Darjeeling District with a major goal to see that the District Administration declares the Darjeeling District as a “Child Labour Free” District. If this is successful, I think it will be for the first time in India that GO and NGO together declaring a particular District Child Labour free. This project in Darjeeling District could rescue around 45 child labourers and could establish with the community participation 4 mobile Child Rights Protection desk at GP level to ensure that all children are safe in the community. Today I would like to bring forth a story of girl child who was working as a domestic worker and through our support Bal Surakshya Abhiyan (BSA), one of our partner in Darjeeling, rescued her and today she is one of the best hockey player at West Bengal State level.

A 12 year old girl child from North part of West Bengal due to bad economic condition of the family lands up as Domestic worker in Kalimpong city of Darjeeing District. As a domestic worker she had to do the entire household chores, look after the baby, washing cloths as well as cook food. Every day it was for more than round the clock of work. All her rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Based on the report from the secret survey conducted on 27th December 2012, Child Release Officer & Secret Survey Volunteers conducted a rescue operation on 29th December 2012 and rescued this girl child. Immediately, she was taken to the Kalimpong Police Station and a complaint was lodged.

After getting shelter order from the Child Welfare Committee Darjeeling, the child was brought to BSA. Later, the organisation contacted her father who came to BSA to visit her. During his visit, he coaxed her to be back at home as her brother seems to be longing to see her. But she answered him, “When I was sent to work, my brother was there but he never said a word and now why does he want to see me. Does he want to send me back to work at another place?”

Considering that this was her verdict and at the best interest of the child and the order from CWC Darjeeling, the girl child is now under the care of BSA. She is pursuing her study at class V in one of the best English medium convent school in Darjeeling. She could stretch her wings of passion towards hockey and having given the opportunity she is now one of the best Hockey Players at the state level. She is a determined child today to be herself and be a successful in life. Bold and stubborn, these two cards, have played also to her Hockey ground to win the match.

She is one of the living example of a child labour who if rescued and given proper care, can excel in life. Caritas India feels that as nation we should secure the childhood for better future of our country.

By Anthony Chettri, HoD-Programs