GUWAHATI, Nov 23 - Even after more than three decades have passed since the law to protect children below 14 years of age from child labour was introduced, the practice continues in Guwahati, the gateway to the North East.
Childline Guwahati, a Central government initiative run by an NGO, rescued 145 child labourers and has prevented more than five child marriages in Guwahati between April 1 and October 30 this year.
Childline Guwahati coordinator Nirmal Deka told The Assam Tribune that among the State�s urban areas, Guwahati has the maximum number of domestic child labourers.
�Altogether 1,243 children were rescued in the city in the last four years and 994 of them were child labourers. Last year, we rescued 250 child labourers (data counts from April to March). Most of the rescued labourers were either working in hotels or in private residences,� he divulged.
�Over the years the number of child labourers has been increasing in the city. Childline received 375 intervention cases ranging from child marriage and physical abuse to child labour, bonded labour, among others this year. We have received five to six calls in a day regarding cases related to violence against children. Child marriage practice was prevalent across communities and castes predominantly due to poverty. Dhirenpara, Noonmati, Borbari and Muslimpara are some of the areas where we found a number of cases related to child marriage over the years. More than 50 child marriages have been prevented by Childline in the city since 2016,� he added.
�Many cases of corporal punishment have also come to notice, with a majority of them reported in private schools. Students were subjected to physical violence in the name of punishment. Though Childline had come into existence in the face of the exponential increase in cases of violence against children and abuse of children, there is still a lot more that needs to be done to protect children. Our job is to only respond to the calls and rescue the child within 24 hours. But post-rescue counselling of a child is very important. Lack of proper counselling again pushes them to the same course of activity,� Deka said.
He added, �Although awareness among the people has been increasing, it is yet to reach certain sections. We need to strengthen the post-rescue and rehabilitation part for support of the children on their existing setup. Linking with various government policies is also necessary to support the family.�
After a child is rescued, he or she is sent to a child welfare committee (CWC). The CWC meets and interviews the child to learn about his/her background and also understand the problem he/she is facing. �The role of the CWC is to find the child a safe home and environment either with his or her original parents or adoptive parents, foster care or in an institution. We urge people to use the Childline toll-free helpline (1098) in case they come across any child labourer in the city,� Deka added.