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70,000 children working in Meghalaya mines?

By Raju Das

SHILLONG, June 11 � Amidst conflicting reports of 70,000 children are down working inside dangerous coal mines, Meghalaya is yet to notify important legislations to stop such illegal practises.

On the eve of Child Labour Day, experts pointed out that Meghalaya remains one of the few states in India to notify the Child Labour Prohibition Regulation Act, 1986 (CLPRA).

The state government has zealously dismissed reports of an NGO which states that 70,000 children from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh are working in various coal mines of Jaintia Hills.

However, the same enthusiasm has been missing from its effort to notify the CLPRA and also form the State Level Steering Committee (SLSC) on child labour to get the exact number of children in the state, despite several requests from the civil society.

�It is not true that there are 70,000 children working in the coal mines. However, such claims can be countered only if the government notifies CLPRA and forms the SLSC to get the exact data of children employed illegally,� Fennella Lyngdoh Nonglait, a lawyer fighting for children�s right in Meghalaya, said.

She said the state must immediately frame its own rules under CLPRA to protect the rights of children. �Without the Act, officials cannot take suo moto action. Once the Act is in place then punitive actions can be taken against people who employ children in workplaces,� Nonglait said.

Soma Bhowmick, an expert on child labour and human rights, meanwhile said, poverty is the basic cause for child labour and Right To Education Act would go a long way in fighting this menace.

However, Meghalaya again is far removed in implementing the Act in letter and spirit. The government says it does not have the resource to do so.

In Meghalaya the debate, whether 70,000 children or more are employed in dangerous places is likely to continue.

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