Koderma (Jharkhand): In a first of its kind initiative, the Government of Jharkhand, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), set up by Nobel Peace Laureate Shri Kailash Satyarthi, have come together to eliminate child labour from mica mining in the state.
Children are involved in various stages of mica mining to get crude mica from rocks and digging holes that are often more than 10 meters deep. Caught in the web of exploitation, children drop out of schools, missing out on all opportunities for a bright future. Mica is used in cosmetics, car paint, and for electrical insulation among other applications. The partners will work towards the protection of children in mica mining areas to eradicate child labour from mica supply chains by scaling and strengthening child friendly villages (Bal Mitra Grams).
Speaking at the event to mark the collaboration, Nobel Peace Laureate Shri Kailash Satyarthi said, “While we have made 126 villages in Jharkhand child labour free, with 50,000 children attending school daily, we believe that thousands of children are at risk and are vulnerable in the around 500 villages where mica is collected and mined. The Child Friendly village model has successfully proven that access to education and other schemes of the government have ensured 100% school enrollment, no instances of trafficking and child marriage. With the support of the Government of Jharkhand, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and other civil society organisations, KSCF is committed to creating a model in Jharkhand of child-centric community development that can be replicated and scaled across the world.”
Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) is a unique initiative of KSCF, and the first step towards creating a child friendly world. Through a multi-pronged, participatory approach, this initiative works to retain over 50,000 children in school every day. Thereby keeping these children away from the vicious grip of child labour, day after day. The success of the BMG model lies in the ownership and responsibility of the well-being of children being taken proactively by the Gram Panchayats.
BMGs empower children and provide them a platform to showcase their leadership through the Bal Panchayat (Children’s Council) – thereby creating an empowered next generation of the youngest democracy in the world. Noteworthy is the fact that till date KSCF has instituted 126 Bal Mitra Grams (Child Friendly Villages) in Jharkhand. KSCF has been working relentlessly in the state since 2005.
Champa Kumari, age 13, exemplifies empowerment in action in Jharkhand. She is the President of the Bal Panchayat (Children’s Council) in the state. A resident of Jamdar BMG in Jharkhand, she has successfully put an end to all child marriages in her village and has made her village child labour free, with all children attending school. She is determined to become a teacher and bring in changes in her community.
Mohammad Manan Ansari is also testimony of this empowerment. Manan was rescued from the mica mines in Koderma by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) activists in 2007 at the tender age of 10. He was enrolled in school and his talent was nurtured at Bal Ashram, the long-term rehabilitation home established by Smt. Sumedha Kailash near Jaipur. Today, on invitation, Manan has participated in the prestigious TedX Talk held at NIIT, Mangalore. He is completing his graduation in Life Sciences from Delhi University. He has also addressed the International Labour Conference in Geneva when he was 14 “More than half the children of our village are engaged in mica-mining and so are their parents. The youngest are 6-7 years old,” Manan says.
Addressing a large gathering of over 15,000 people comprising state government officials, legislators and parliamentarians, village community and BMG members, students and the business community, Honourable Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Shri Raghubar Das, stated, “I am very thankful to Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation for taking this initiative. Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi has been working for the cause of children for many years. I urge the KSCF to constitute Bal Panchayats (Children’s Councils) in every village in Jharkhand.”
He also announced that every worker of Bal Mitra Gram established in Jharkhand would be awarded Rs 500 cash prize for their immense contribution to the cause. He added, “In 2001 when I was the labour minister, I had myself conducted raids in Ranchi to curb child labour. We have to get rid of poverty collectively because this is the root cause of child labour. Quality education is the answer to this monumental problem. The state will put in place a law to make education compulsory and accessible for all children till they are 18 years. The issue of Placement Agencies is another concern to address. These agencies sell the children from Jharkhand in cities and even sexually abuse them. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 has been passed in Lok Sabha and should be passed in Rajya Sabha so that trafficking is curbed.”
Nobel Peace Laureate, Shri. Kailash Satyarthi, expressed, “Today is a historic day as the Government, village communities, business leaders and civil society have come together for a collective commitment for child labour free mica mining. The innovative, participative and holistic approach of creating Bal Mitra Grams (Child Friendly Villages) in the state has proven that eradication of child labour is possible with joint efforts and a strong will for the children.”
“I am confident that the lustre of cosmetics, glitter of paints and insulation in electrical appliances will not be tainted with blood, sweat and toil of children in mica mining. Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) is a classic example of social engineering pivoted with child participation, youth leadership and assurance of education for all children.”
“I earnestly call upon all stakeholders including national as well as international brands that use mica in their supply chains to become champions in change. BMG is not only about eradication of child labour, but to end all kinds of abuse and exploitation of children like child marriages, ending sexual abuse, social discrimination and trafficking by active participation of village community.”
As part of this path-breaking partnership, special interventions will be undertaken to build capacity of state, district, block and gram panchayat level functionaries in addressing issues related to children. Both, the Government of Jharkhand and KSCF, will strive to bring in synergy between national and state legislation and regulations concerning child protection. These will ensure efficacy of measures and safeguards to curb trafficking of persons in mica mining areas. KSCF along with Government of Jharkhand will also jointly undertake mass awareness campaigns on child sexual abuse, child marriage, child labour and trafficking besides working towards convergence of all government departments for effective community mobilization in mica mining areas.
A survey report by NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) on the survey of child labour in mica mining areas of Jharkhand and Bihar was also launched by Chairperson, NCPCR, Shri Priyank Kanoongo. The report highlights the status of tribal communities and educational deprivation of children due to their involvement in mica mining activities.
Shri Kanoongo said, “MICA mining has always been integral to this area. We cannot look for solutions through a foreign lens. Local problems can be effectively solved through seeking local solutions, and understanding the needs on ground. We are happy to release this report, and we will shortly develop an action plan to address the grim challenges of child labour and exploitation that have beset this area, using a participatory approach.”
For instituting BMGs, the KSCF team first identifies areas where child labour is rampant. Thereafter, alliances are formed with various stakeholders of the village community. A proper survey of the community is carried out by the volunteers of KSCF with the help of stakeholders identified in the previous step. All child labourers are withdrawn and mainstreamed into schools. Bal Panchayat (Children’s Parliament) is constituted after holding elections which becomes children’s first tryst with democratic values enshrined in the constitution. The elected representatives of children raise all issues concerning their peers in front of the Gram Panchayat. Advisory and working committees of women, youth and panchayat members are constituted in the villages and are trained and sensitized about children’s issues in a sustained manner. The Bal Panchayat is dovetailed with the constitutional body i.e. village panchayat so that the challenges confronting children are heard and remedied by the office bearers. Once this dovetailing is complete, the volunteers hand over the Bal Mitra Gram to the selected committees and the larger village community.
The Nobel Peace Laureate urged the authorities and all stakeholders to consider if completely legalizing the mining of mica could be a solution as that would ensure strict regulation of the sector and help to address the issue of child labour. He also called for strict implementation of the Right to Education Act (RTE Act) which will ensure that children shift from mines to educational institutions.
Concluding the session, Nobel Peace Laureate Shri Kailash Satyarthi thanked the Honourable Chief Minister of Jharkhand for the commitment of his government to work towards eradication of child labour in the mica mining region.
KSCF, since 2005, has created 126 child friendly villages in Jharkhand with the help of Infosys Foundation, The Hans Foundation, The National Resources Stewardship Circle, TDH, and Estee Lauder Companies.
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