Kavita Upadhyay, Lakshmi R. (Asian College of Journalism)
Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government likes to boast about the near 100 per cent enrollment rate of children in the 6-14 age group in primary schools in the state. However, this number does not account for the children of migrant labourers in the city.
According to the State Health department, there are 35,000 migrant children below the age of five living across the state. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) state wing puts the number of migrant children between ages six and 14 at 4000. According to the latest SSA survey (carried out in 2010), there are 1,441 migrant children who are not in school. Some of them could be working hotels and construction sites.
However, a report in The New Indian Express dated February 18 said that according to Kancheepuram-based Rural Development Trust, there were over 8,000 migrant children across Greater Chennai alone, many of whom were reported to be working.
P Karuppasamy, Tamil Nadu Additional Labour Commisioner, reasoned that not all out-of-school migrant children were necessarily involved in child labour; rather, they belonged to the category of those under economic compulsions or taking care of younger siblings.
Rajam, an SSA project supervisor, said that both residential and non-residential training centers were being set up by the state in migrant settlements in Thiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Chennai city. However, she said that seasonal and intra-district migration adversely affected proper implementation of these projects.
According to R Vidya Sagar, Child Protection specialist, UNICEF, the lack of proper mapping and registration of the migrants and children was the reason why migrant children end up working and not benefiting from the Right to Education (RTE).
Most of the state’s migrant labourers come from Odisha,Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and the North-East. Lack of appropriate language teachers and non-cooperation of sub-contractors and agents who deal with the migrant families are other major obstacles.