Ahmedabad/Kolkata: Central Government figures show that 12 million children are engaged in child labour and out of school. Starting April 1 education is the right of every child in India but the Right to Education Act has not made any specific provision to bring the child labours back into regular school.
Seven-year-old Anil Patel doesn't go to school. He works with his parents on a small piece of land 70 kms from Ahmedabad. His parents say they could not afford the school fee.
"Even if I decide to teach him, where will I fund his expenses from?" asks Anil's father Narsinh Patel.
After the sowing season is over, the Patels move to Ahmedabad as migrant labourers for six months and take Anil with them. The seven-year-old doesn't know what he's missing out on. Having spent most of his life away from school he says he doesn't want to attend class.
"I don't want to go to school. The teachers used to beat me up," he says.
Like Anil, Kakali Baidya was also denied the right to education. The 14-year-old was studying in class 1 when her family moved to Kolkata for work. The shift cost Kakali her education and the city made her a domestic help.
The Right to Education Act which makes elementary education compulsory for 6-14 year old aims to better the lives of children. But what about those like Anil and Kakali and other children working as labourers, as domestic help?
"There needs to be special packages for them because RTE will be meaningful only if these children are brought into the fold of mainstream schooling," says NGO's Save the Child Programme Coordinator Biswaroop Banerjee.