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World Day Against Child Labour: Former Child Labour Survivors Lead from the Front

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New Delhi, Jun 08: June 12, the World Day Against Child Labour is a symbol of hope, resilience and freedom. And spearheading the movement against child labour is the survivor-led intelligence network, a group of former child labour survivors who lead by example and from the front.

World Day Against Child Labour: Former Child Labour Survivors Lead from the Front

It is pertinent to highlight that this day is a result of the efforts of tens of thousands of children, who led by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, marched across the world in 1998 to demand an international law against child labour and also urged the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to recognise a day in the year as against child labour. Subsequently, the ILO adopted the new international law to protect children from the worst forms of child labour (ILO Convention No. 182) and recognised June 12 as World Day Against Child Labour.

Interestingly, since 1997, Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation's (KSCF), survivor-led intelligence network has been instrumental in creating awareness about child trafficking and preventing tens of thousands of children from being pushed into the quagmire of exploitation and forced labour.

According to the 2011 census of India, there are 10.1 million child labourers in the country. And a large majority of these children are trafficked. Globally, human trafficking for forced labour and sexual exploitation is the third-largest organised crime after narcotics and illegal arms. According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, 8.4 million children have become child labourers in the last four years. Because of the pandemic, 9 million additional children are at risk of becoming child labourers, the report said.

There is no simple formula or a shortcut to addressing the issue of trafficking for child labour in the country. A time-bound and multifaceted strategy along with innovative solutions are required. The survivor-led intelligence network is one such model that can be replicated across the country.

At present, the network works across scores of villages in the eight trafficking prone states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. The network works together with the common village residents on one hand and forms strategic partnerships will village panchayat members, law enforcement agencies and other government departments on the other.

Mohammed Chotu, a former child labourer, who was rescued by KSCF in 2014 from a factory in Delhi is an integral part of the network. He said that the team members in the network are on a high alert round-the-clock. "We keep a hawk's eye on any suspicious movement across the trafficking-prone villages. We have developed a mechanism to immediately relay the information to Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the sister organisation of KSCF," he said.

Speaking about how the network functions, Mohammed Chotu said that as the first step the team visits different villages and raises awareness about child trafficking and child labour by distributing pamphlets, wall graffiti, audio messages played through loudspeakers and group meetings. Next, the team identifies active, literate and aware youths in the villages, who are then trained to notice any suspicious movement of children or the presence of traffickers. Finally, any crucial information gleaned from these individuals is passed on to the rescue team, he said.

Arbind Kumar Sharma, another former child labourer, who now leads that network said that the focus of the network was to highlight the importance of education, build public consensus against child labour and prevent multiple forms of child exploitation.

"Across 100 districts in eight states, we have ensured the participation of people as well as the panchayat members and government officials. Around 1,000 villages across the two states of Bihar and Jharkhand have become free from trafficking because of our intervention. From March 2021 to April 2022, 1132 people, involved directly or indirectly in the eight trafficking-prone states were identified.

Besides, FIRs were registered against 350 traffickers," he said.

Survivor led intelligence network is an endeavour to create a world where no child is languishing in labour and an attempt to provide succour to the toiling children, bereft of a happy childhood.

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