New Delhi: In a ragpickers' hutment at Rangpuri Pahari, close to the upscale Vasant Kunj neighbourhood in south Delhi, 12-year-old Govinda Kumar begins to scribble on a notebook after returning from his daily nine-hour drill of collecting re-cyclable waste from the streets.
The child labourer, who started working at the age of 7, got admitted to a government school three months ago after years of struggling on the streets for earning Rs.30 a day. And he is not alone - many others like him continue to slog for survival.
A ragpicker child bites a plastic roll as she scavenges on the outskirts of Jammu. AP
"During the day I collected plastic waste and newspapers from bungalows and streets, and at night I helped my father in segregating the collected material. This year I got enrolled into a school," said Govinda, whose family migrated from Bihar in 2004.
Govinda, after a series of irregular studies at school, got admission to Class 5. "I managed to get into a school in 2005, but could not carry my education forward because of financial needs of the family. I dropped out in Class 2," he added.
It was after the intervention of a NGO that Govinda got re-admitted to school. Ranpuri Pahari, identified by experts as the "den of child labour", because of its sizeable population of children employed in denim factories in the nearby Mahipalpur area and ragpickers, is home to over 200 ragpicker families.
"My husband earns Rs.2,000 a month. To feed six mouths, Govinda started helping his father," said Shobha Devi, Govinda's mother. Experts said NGOs' intervention was not possible in all cases due to the resistance from the child labourers' families.
"Child labour is of two types -- when children work with the family and when they are trafficked into forced labour for industrial work," Jaya Singh, senior manager of NGO Child Rights and You
"Children with families are easier to be mainstreamed into formal education, while children in the industries are difficult to be located and pulled out," added Jaya Singh.
Shoeshine boys walk early morning before the start of the day's work in New Delhi. AP
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act bans the employment of children below the age of 14. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), child labour in the country in 2005 was around 8.9 million. Experts, however, estimate the statistics have gone up since.
According to estimates by child labour activists, there are at present roughly 500,000 child labourers scattered around Delhi. These include children who work as domestic helps and ragpickers. Most of the ragpickers are found in Okhla, Tughlaqabad, Rangpuri Pahari, Bhalswa Dairy and Jahangirpuri areas.
Experts point to problems in rescuing child labourers. "The law states the age under which employing a child is 14 years, it should be 18 years," said Ajay Sinha, associate general manager, policy analysis, CRY. He also suggested stricter implementation of the law by inspectors