Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Sunday Times, UK :India deprives own poor in bid to be aid donor

From The Sunday Times
January 27, 2008
India deprives own poor in bid to be aid donor
Dean Nelson, Delhi

A BRITISH plan to help India become a leading aid donor despite being home to a third of the world’s poor has been fiercely criticised by campaigners in both countries. Gordon Brown backed the plan during a visit to India last week, when he announced more than £800m in aid over the next three years while praising its growing prosperity.

India now has more billionaires than Britain, Brown said, and the time was right for the two countries “to use our combined knowledge and resources to expand this partnership to tackle poverty globally”.

Last week British officials said that although India desperately needs aid to curb extreme poverty, it regards itself as a rising global power and wants to be seen as a donor rather than a recipient. Even though Britain gives more aid to India than any other country, it will in future be regarded as a “global partner” in poverty reduction, rather than a poor beneficiary of UK charity.

In recent years India has declined relief shipments after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, given aid to America after Hurricane Katrina and become a donor in Afghanistan. British aid officials said last week that India had some notable development successes which could be adopted for Africa.
“We can take what works, like getting children into primary education, and export that to Africa,” said Susanna Moorhead, head of Britain’s Department for International Development in India. She said while India has between 350m and 400m people living on less than 50p a day, it wants to take “its rightful place in the world”. She will work with officials in Delhi to identify African countries that could benefit from Indian expertise.

The plan has met with disbelief among the antipoverty campaigners in India, who say that the country should put its own house in order before taking on the problems of Africa. They said the scale of India’s poverty was so great that all available resources and talent should be focused on helping its own people first. “India should not be distracted with helping other countries meet their goals when it has so far to go to meet its own,” said Ashok Agarwal, a lawyer and child poverty campaigner.

Professor Praveen Jha, a United Nations adviser, said that in eight of India’s 17 states, poverty was increasing. “In malnutrition, India’s record is worse than most of sub-Saharan Africa,” he said. “My request to Indian officials is: please address things in your own country first.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lawyer writes to DHC-Rampant child labour in courts premises


The Registrar General
Delhi High Court
New Delhi-110003

Sub: Rampant Child Labour in Tis Hazari District Courts, Delhi


It is brought to your kind notice that employment of children in dhabas (road side eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, tea shops, resorts, spas or other recreational centers is prohibited w.e.f. 10.10.2006 under Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. Similarly rag picking by the children is also prohibited w.e.f. 10.05.2001 under the said Act.

It is unfortunate that inspite of the aforesaid prohibitions, the number of children engaged in both the aforesaid occupations and processes have been increasing tremendously day by day in Delhi. It is all due to the failure on the part of the Govt. to implement the provisions of the said Act.

It is disgusting to see that almost everyday, a large number of child rag-pickers enter into the premises of District Court Tis Hazari, Delhi and collect rags. Similarly almost all tea shops and dhabas being run within the District Courts premises frequently employ children to clean utensils, supply tea to the customers, etc. On interacting with some of these children, it has been found that they are not at all attending school. All these children are below 14 years of age and the employment or engagement thereof, not only takes away their childhood, but also constitutes an offence under the provisions of Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986.

It is submitted that the child labour is a national shame and needs to be dealt-with firmly. Some of the photographs taken by me in the morning of Tuesday, 15 Jan 2008, of the children found working within the premises of the District Courts are pasted below.

It is, therefore, requested that necessary steps may be taken to ensure that no one is allowed to employ or permit child labour within the premises of District Courts of Delhi and those found violating the same should dealt with strictly.

With warm regards,

Ashok Agarwal
Mob- 9811101923

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Indian Schools Students formed body to air Grievances

Phone- 011-23910014, 09811101923


More than 100 students of Delhi Government and MCD run schools in a meeting held today (12.01.2008) in Jhangirpuri, Delhi have resolved to constitute a body, namely, “Delhi Schools Students Forum” to protect child rights and particularly the right to education. A 35 member adhoc committee has been formed with Sanjeeda, Sarita, Jatin, Nafeesa, Ankit Saxena, Neha, Arun Kumar, Shiva, Jyoti, Manisha, Arshi, Priti, Rahul Kumar, Abda, Ankit, Mryalida, Ratan Lal, Sanjeed, Radhika, Geeta, Nasreen, Poonam, Rabiya, Yashmeen, Asma, Seema, Sandeep, Sonali, Krishma, Laxmi, Monika, Komal, Paramjeet Kaur, Purnima, and Mamta to take steps to enrol more and more members and also to take necessary decisions on behalf of the Forum. More members to this committee shall be added in due course of time. Shri Ashok Agarwal, Advocate and Advisor, Social Jurist and Shri Akbar Ali, Coordinator, Chetnalaya(NGO) have ageed to act as facilitators. A child going to any school in Delhi shall be eligible to become a member of this Forum without payment of any fee. The slogan of the Forum shall be ‘MERI AWAJ SUNO’

It has also been resolved that in order to draw attention of the authorities, the students of the government and the mcd run schools may abstain themselves from the classes on February 05, 2008 to protest against the poor quality of education in these schools.

Ashok Agarwal, Advocate
Advisor, Social Jurist

Saturday, January 5, 2008


On June 01, 2005, close to 400 child labour are rescued from Madanpura area of Central Mumbai. Again on June 06, 2005, about 30 child labour are rescued from Najafgarh area of Delhi. All these children were engaged in the zari work and belong to Sitamarhi district of Bihar. Some of these children have already been sent and the rest are in the process of being sent back to their parents. On June 10, 2005, Maharashtra labour department in raids on gold-plating workshops at Bhuleshwar rescue 82 child labour and they are also to be repatriated to their home towns/villages. In the past also, several similar rescue operations have been undertaken and the rescued children have been sent back to their parents. Unfortunately, these children are again seen working with the same employers or new employers at the same locations or at new locations. This is nothing but re-cycling of child labour.

On June 02, 2005, with the help of my friend Junned, a social activist, I got an opportunity to personally visit fourteen to fifteen zari factories situated in the narrow streets of Zafarabad of East Delhi and found an average of about 25-30 children between the age group 4 to 14 years working in each such factory in most inhuman conditions. I was told with some definitiveness that in that very area, there are around five hundred zari factories in which not less than five thousand children are working. Almost all these children belong to Sitamarhi district of Bihar and have been brought here through middlemen on the pretext that they would become karigar (mechanic). The rescue operations are a welcome step but it loses its importance and purpose, the moment the rescued child is re-cycled as child labour. Society at large is rightly not taking these rescue operations seriously knowing well that these are very often simple gimmicks.

It is estimated that in our country there are about 10 crore child labour. In Delhi alone, there are about 14-15 lakhs child labour out of which more than 5 lakhs have been brought from outside Delhi. The number of child labour in the country is increasing day by day despite government’s claim to the contrary. Why is all this happening? These are the children who are totally denied the educational opportunities and have been forced to engage themselves in one or the other work. Those keeping child labour must be severely punished but unless the educational opportunities are made available in the real sense, punishing the employers is not sufficient. In this article an attempt is made to examine the various laws dealing with child labour and juvenile justice, to pin point the lacunae in these very laws that are responsible for the unabated continuance and growth of child labour. At the outset, it appears that the present laws are so bad that these work for the perpetuation of the child labour system rather than for its complete abolition.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 prohibits the engagement of children in certain employments and regulates the conditions of children in certain other employments. Besides the fact that this Act needs to be amended in the light of Article 21-A of the Constitution of India which guarantees every child compulsory schooling up to the age of fourteen years, it is significant that this Act neither prohibits completely all forms of child labour nor it lays down any provision for educational opportunities to the rescued child labour.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 which of course in its preamble talks of providing care and protection to the children in need of care and protection but examination of various provisions of this Act would reveal that so far as child labour is concerned, it only provides for repatriation of such children to their parents and nothing more. It is silent on ensuring educational opportunities to such children. What will happen after repatriation, and whether or not the rescued child is re-cycled as child labour, is none of its concern. In other words, the Juvenile Justice Act is providing a smooth way for re-cycling of the rescued child labour.

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 merely provides for the abolition of bonded labour system with a view to preventing the economic and physical exploitation of the weaker sections of the people but does not at all deal with the rehabilitation of bonded child labour. Similarly, the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966, the Factories Act, 1948 and the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 prohibit employment of children in the establishments covered by these Acts but do not deal with the rehabilitation of such child labour. On the other hand, it is shocking that certain laws even permit the employment of children, such as the Apprentices Act, 1961which permits children to enter into any occupation as apprentice and the Plantation of Labour Act, 1951 which expressly permits children to work in plantations.

The picture that emerges from an examination of the various aforementioned laws is that firstly, there is no complete prohibition of all forms of child labour, secondly, no law provides rehabilitation of child labour in the manner that the child labour cannot be re-cycled and thirdly, none of the existing laws provide for any educational opportunities for the rescued children. Various studies have shown that the only way to eradicate child labour is to provide to every child good quality educational opportunities. These may include well equipped full time schools, residential schools, day boarding schools, mobile schools, transport facilities, mid-day meals, adequate number of teachers etc. depending upon the requirement of each child. The children’s homes or NGO-run welfare homes are not the substitutes. These opportunities are required at every nook and corner of the country.

The State is constitutionally obliged to actually provide the required educational opportunities to each and every child but these opportunities are nowhere visible. Result is: rampant child labour. Had it been done by the State, there would not be any child labour, what to talk of re-cycling of the child labour. The present laws dealing with child labour are totally defective. It may not be far-fetched to conclude that the phenomenon of the recycling of child labour and the continued prevalence and growth of child labour, are but the end result of all these so-called welfare legislations enacted for and in the name of the child. It is high time that the government must take steps to transform the existing laws to end all forms of child labour, including the re-cycling of child labour.


Article 21 A has been incorporated in the chapter on fundamental rights of the Constitution of India in December 2002. This article makes right to free and compulsory education of every child in the age group of 6-14 years a fundamental right against the State. According to this article, the age of compulsory schooling for the first time has been constitutionally recognized as up to fourteen years. The core issue is whether article 21 A of the Constitution has brought any change in the legal status of the child labour.

The legal status of the child labour at the time of incorporation of article 21 A in the Constitution can be seen through the provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (in short, Child Labour Act, 1986). The Child Labour Act, 1986 does not completely prohibit child labour in all forms. On the other hand, it permits children to work in all occupations and processes other than the hazardous one, that too, as set forth in Part A and Part B of the Schedule to the Act. However, it is pertinent to mention that the Delhi Shops and Establishments Act, 1954 completely prohibits child labour below the age of 12 years.

The factual situation of child labour in the country is very grim and unfortunate. It is estimated that about 10 crores children below the age of fourteen years are not attending full time formal school and are engaged in one or the other type of work. These children are nothing but child labour. The distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous work in relation to a child is bogus. The number of child labour is increasing day-by-day in spite of government’s claim to the contrary.

The article 21 A of the Constitution guarantees every child a fundamental right to free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 years. Can a child realize this fundamental right to education, if he is simultaneously asked to continue as child labour? The child labour and right to education cannot go together. The article 21 A would become meaningless, if child labour in all forms is not completely prohibited, therefore, it is legitimate to read complete prohibition of child labour in all forms in article 21 A.

The minimum age standards for employment are linked to schooling. The ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), which built on the ten instruments, adopted before second world war, expresses this tradition by stating that the minimum age for entry into employment should not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling. By establishing such a link, the aim is to ensure that children’s human capital is developed to its fullest potential, benefiting children themselves, their families and communities and society as a whole by the increased contribution they can, when grown, make to economic growth and social development.

The ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (NO. 138) came into force on 19.06.1976. Article 1 of the said Convention provides that each member for which this Convention is in force undertakes to pursue a national policy designed to ensure the effective abolition of Child Labour and to raise progressively the minimum age for admission to employment or work to a level consistent with the fullest physical and mental development of young persons. Paragraph 2 of Article 2 provides that the minimum age shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and in any case not less than 15 years. The paragraph 4 of Article 2 provides that notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 3 of this Article, a Member whose economy and additional facilities are insufficiently developed may, after consultation with the organizations of employers and workers concerned, where such exist, initially specify a minimum of 14 years.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989 and the Government of India acceded to this Convention on 11 December 1992. The Article 32 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, etc. The provisions of Article 32 of the said Convention also provide that the state parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation of this article. “To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of other international instruments, States Parties shall in particular: - (a) Provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admissions to employment; (b) Provide for appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment and (c) Provide for appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of the present Article”.

The age of compulsory schooling in our country is up to 14 years as envisaged in article 21 A of the Constitution of India and therefore, in terms of Articles 1 & 2 of ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Article 32 of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the minimum age for admission to employment is deemed to be 14 years and therefore, all the children up to the age of 14 years are deemed to be prohibited to work.

The Second Labour Commission of the Government of India noted, “ The only way to prevent child labour is to recognize that the rightful place of children is in school, not in the work place or in the house. So, the first step is to ensure compulsory primary education for all children. Historically and world-wide, wherever child labour has been abolished, this is how it has been done.” It further noted, “We would like to point out that whether the child is employed in enterprises and industries outside the home or at home, for wages or to help in domestic chores or family occupations, it does result in the forfeiture of opportunities for education and for formation.”

The classification among child labour for the purpose of prohibition is illegally and Unconstitutional after the insertion of article 21 A of the Constitution. The tenor of this article makes it very clear that all the children have to be in school and not at work. The existence of child labour after fifty-seven years of independence of the country would make mockery of the right to compulsory schooling as envisaged in this article.

The other fundamental and human rights of the child also cannot be protected unless the child is enrolled and retained in full time formal school. That several rights of the child including right to health, right to mid-day meal, right to participate in society, right against early child marriage, molestation and rape etc. can be best protected if the child is in the school and not at work place. In order to give effect to the letters and spirit of article 21A of the Constitution, the government must take immediate steps to amend the Child Labour Act, 1986 banning completely the child labour in all forms and providing severe penal provisions against its violators.


A telegraphic notice from the Convener of Right to Education Task Force was enough for The Indian School, an unaided recognized private school at New Delhi, to realize their mistake in striking off the names of Jyoti Sharma and Shelly Sharma, students of classes VIII and VI respectively, which led to the re-entry of these students in the school.

Jyoti Sharma and Shelly Sharma are sisters studying in the Indian School right from class I. The parents of these students are economically weak and were not in position to bear the burden of fees for education of their children. However, with the help of their maternal grandfather, these students were getting education in this fee charging public school. The maternal grandfather is a retired person and his only source of income is pension. The payment of pension was delayed for last few months, resulting in non-payment of the school fees in time for the quarter i.e., December 2005-March 2006. In December itself the mother requested the school to grant them some time to deposit the fees.

That on 31.01.2005, the students as usual went to the school at 7.30a.m. and while they were attending their classes, at about 10.30 a.m., the Headmistress Ms. Meenakshi Malhotra asked them to leave their classes and were told to go home. The mother of the students received telephone call from the school that due to non-payment of fees, the students have been removed from the school. The mother went to the school and offered fees through cheque but the school refused to accept it and the students came back home.

On 1.2.2006, these students went to the school to take unit test of Social Studies but they were not allowed to take the test and forced to sit idle in the library. The students informed their mother on telephone and the mother came to the school and offered fees in cash but the school refused to accept it. The students and the mother on reaching home found letters from the school informing them that the names of the students have been struck off.

That on 4.2.2006, the mother sent bank drafts towards fees along with a letter of request to the school and copies thereof to the Director of Education, but still the students were not allowed to attend classes and the school was adamant to not to withdraw their decision. Till 07.02.2006, not only the students and the mother did their best to convince the school to allow the students to attend classes but the other students also agitated on the issue against the school but unfortunately, the school remained adamant on their stand. In this process, the students and the mother repeatedly faced humiliation at the hands of the school authorities.

Failing in their attempts to pursue the school to take back the students, the mother on 7.2.2006 personally met the Convener of Right to Education Task Force and complained against the school. The Convener immediately sent a telegraphic notice to the school, which is reproduced as under:

“The Principal,
The Indian School,
Joseph Broz, Tito Marg,
New Delhi-110049.

Striking off names of Jyoti Sharma student of class VIII B and Shelly Sharma of class VI A is illegal and unjust. A request for allowing these students to attend classes immediately. Legal notice follows.

Ashok Agarwal
483, Lawyers’ Chamber, Block II,
Delhi High Court, New Delhi-110003.
Mobile No. 9811101923”

On the next day, i.e. 08.02.2006, around 2.00 pm, the mother of the students received a telephone call from the school whereby she was asked to send the students to the school on 10.2.2006 (9th being holiday). On 10.2.2006, both the students went to the school and joined their classes as usual.

It is a success story.

Friday, January 4, 2008



A Right to Education Task Force team (RETF) (a unit of Social Jurist) consisting of Advocate Ashok Agarwal and Mr. Akbar Ali of NGO Chetnalaya visited MCD Primary School, morning shift, C Block, Jahangirpuri, Delhi at 8.30 AM on January 2, 2008 and observed as under:-

1. 1175 girl students belonging to underprivileged section of society are studying in the school in classes, nursery to V.

2. Electricity connection is available in the school but there is no electricity in any of the classrooms and all the students are compelled to study in total darkness. This condition is there for the last so many months. Computer room is also non-functional. None of the classrooms was having functional tube lights though electric fittings were there. Interesting thing noticed was that tube lights were functioning in the Principal’s room. Other thing noticed was that a functional electric hot case was available in the Principal’s room and the teachers were using the same for their lunch packets.

3. Students were forced to sweep their respective classrooms. There is only one daily rated full time sweeper but of no use.

4. Out of two toilet bocks, one was locked and another was very dirty. Some of the students were using this dirty toilet block whereas most of the other students were easing themselves in open.

5. Except Principal’s room, all other rooms were dirty. Many of the desks were broken. Windows were without glasses and the students were facing chilly winds.

6. There are three nursery sections with 100 students but there is no aya posted for the last three years.

7. Barring absence of 4 teachers, all other teachers were present. The Principal had gone to attend an official meeting. However, in the conditions stated above, teaching work is almost impossible.

8. The anti-social elements use to forcibly enter into the school premises and steal the school property. The school watchman had complained to the local police in writing that he was threatened by anti-social elements of the locality and sought protection but police has not done any thing so far in this regard.