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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Children Of Laborers Die Every Year Due To Lack Of Childcare Facilities That Exist Only On Paper: NGO Diya Ghar

  • IWB Post
  •  July 26, 2019

Earlier this year, a six-year-old boy, accompanying his parents who are migrant laborers working on a construction site, fell in a 200 ft well near the site in Mumbai. Last year, in Noida, a four-year-old child died after an under-construction wall collapsed. Lone incidents? Nope, I just named two from the list of thousands that happen every year. Want to know why? Because our laws don’t recognize laborers as workers, so no rights, no benefitting from policies, for instance, necessary childcare facilities on construction sites.

Taking a stand for their rights, IWB has filed a petition to the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Prime Minister’s Office, which addresses the need of installing Mobile Crèches for children of women laborers at the construction sites.

In an attempt to attain a deeper understanding of the life of hardworking women laborers and their children who are invisible to our legal system, IWB interacted with Saraswathi, founder of NGO Diya Gharwhich is actively working towards providing education to these children.

Excerpts:

Migrant laborers tend to shift from one place to another, how do you ensure that their child’s education is not disturbed?

Half of the percentage of laborers we work with, the issue is that once their set period of work is done, they move back to their village. A big part of our initiative is first, to convince the parents to send their kids to school. We educate and make the women aware of the dangers of taking their kids to construction sites and also leaving them alone at home. We educate them about early child care and the value of education as 15- 20 years from now, the work they are doing might not be available as technology is slowly replacing manual labor.

Laborers

While many do send their kids to us for studies, the major result of this sensitization is that when these laborers move back to their village, at least some of them start sending them to the government schools nearby. Thus, their studies continue.

That is surely an improvement. But, recently, IWB engaged with some women laborers who are bringing their kids with them to construction sites and on being questioned about why they are not being sent to school, the answer was the meager wages they get.

I know what they are going through. You see, it is either the middle man who puts half their well-deserved wages in his pocket or the fact that their work is seasonal so there are months when they are unemployed.  

Laborers

So, we provide almost free education, we charge them only Rs 215 a month, which is like Rs 7 per day. The reason behind charging them is to ensure that they realize the importance of this facility and the value of education, otherwise they take it too easy like they come one day and aren’t there the next day. We want it as a commitment from their side.

As I mentioned, women bring their kids to construction sites for lack of a better option and the child, more often than not, ends up working as well, thus making these sites breeding ground for child labor. And yet, our government or any organization hasn’t really made this concerning fact their priority.

On paper, there are multiple welfare schemes going on. They collect data from builders, have a welfare board for the unorganized sector with promises of providing basic facilities, health insurance, and other things. But the question here is what is being implemented and how people are actually being benefitted. Like, there is this rule that if you have above a certain number of children on your construction site, you have to provide a crèche. Implementation is where this policy falls through the cracks.

There is no particular answer for your question as the real situation is that the government is aware of problems and they are doing something or the other to solve them, but the issue is are they doing enough?

So in the light of this rather bleak scenario, what do you think can be done to make mobile crèches mandatory at construction sites?

By lobbying the law and exposing the magnitude of the issue. It is the only way that we can get the attention of the government as we know that the law about the same already exists. The law already says the presence of crèches is mandatory, it is the implementation part that needs to be strengthened. As rarely any builder follows the law of mandatory crèches at the site, children of laborers die every year due to lack of childcare facilities that exist only on paper.

You can sign the petition here.

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