New Delhi: Prakash, one of the many rescued child labourers, is enrolled at the Indus Project Transitional Education Centre which is supposed to help him stop work, start school, and lead a normal childhood. But the project is doing nothing of the sort.
“I used to work in a brick kiln. But I like to study. When I went to a school they refused me admission, and asked me to get a certificate,” says Prakash.
The grand project, jointly financed by the Indian government and the US Department of Labour is struggling to find its feet in the capital. Authorities say it's only suffering from teething problems. But, that means that Prakash, like many of his friends, could soon have to start working again.
“They have got nothing. It's all on paper. Most of the children left because their parents withdrew them. They received no promised benefits,” says Indus Project Trainer, Kiran Sharma.
Delhi became part of the project, first launched across five states in 2003, in 2006. Even after a year, none of the enrolled children have books or uniforms. They are entitled to a monthly stipend of Rs 100 to encourage them to stay, but that hasn't been comin. And has become the root cause of dropouts.
According to the rules, no child will get a stipend until he or she has a post office account which is too much to ask for considering children are from families which don't even have ration cards or address proofs.
“Every month or so parents can be called, made to sign and then given the stipend due to their children. This at least can be done,” says a local social worker, Baba.
With the project slated to end this year, there remains little incentive for authorities to try to make a difference. It started with 60 centres, with a budget allocation of Rs 2.5 lakh per centre. But only about 50 centres function now. Most of the children who joined initially have left, and have now been replaced by their younger siblings, only because the project can guarantee any more - a free meal.
This shows that well-meaning projects can do little if they are surrounded by red tape. But to make them a success, the government agencies that re involved will have to get more proactive and practical.