IN India, close to 100 million people are considered seasonal migrant workers. These unorganized workers migrate along with their families from rural to urban locations in search of livelihood. Children constitute 15-20% of the total seasonal migrant population who are invisible and get excluded from accessing basic entitlements such as education, health care, nutrition and decent and healthy living environment. These migrant children are found living in makeshift dwellings located in constructions sites, brick kilns, stone crushers and various other unorganized sectors. Such children living in inhospitable conditions are often subjected to exploitation, abuse, and neglect and are forced to do domestic work.
India has an array of progressive legislation for protecting and promoting the rights of children. However, as per a study conducted by Aide et Action in worksites of seven cities of India, it was found that migrant children often live in deplorable conditions at worksites. As per the startling data revealed by the study, 90% migrant children do not access ICDS and Anganwadi services at worksites, while 65% suffer from various communicable diseases. Also, 80% children do not have access to education and 40% work as child labour.
Since 2009, Aide et Action has reached out to more than 10,000 excluded migrant children in four States of India viz. Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, making education, child care and child protection rights and entitlements accessible to them. During the year2013 ( and still continuing), Aide et Action partnered with Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) to initiate 65 demonstration Child Care & Learning Centers (CCLCs) for migrant children at worksites in four cities of India viz. Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chennai and Hyderabad.
A CCLC is a creative engagement with children of migrant workers to enhance their skills, learning, development and access to nutritional and health programs in a place of temporary settlement. The focus lies on young migrants below 6 years, particularly of 3-6 years, living in worksiteslike brick kilns, construction sites and stone quarries located in urban and suburban areas, for ensuring their all round growth, learning and development. Children are encouraged to participate in simpler pre-school activities. Their curriculum also includes, learning the basics of pre-reading and pre-writing as well as creative arts. Children are encouraged to interact with other groups, understand social relationships, express their feelings and develop a habit of practicing cleanliness.
A bunch of committed young people, trained to handle children’s issues in difficult sit uations to run the day to day child centric activities at the CCLCs. Individual child profiles are developed and monthly monitoring of each child is done so as to track his/her progress throughout their engagement with the CCLC.
Under the AEA-BvLF project, Aide et Action is currently running 19 CCLCs in the worksites of Greater Bhubaneswar area (Puri, Khurda, Cuttack). Through its project it has reached out to 2880 (1753 in 2014 and 1127 in 2015) migrant children in the age group of 0-14 years in the area. Apart from undergoing learning in the CCLCs, these children were also linked to various government services and entitlements with the help of various stakeholders such as facility owners, government officials, PRI, etc. The INGO has linked 532 (387 in the year 2014 and 145 in 2015) children along with pregnant and lactating mothers with the Government supported nutritional supplement i.e. the Take Home Ration facility at the worksites. Also, 178 children (6-14 years) have been enrolled into the neighboring schools of the worksites with the help of SSA while more than 900 children were provided polio vaccination and 512 were immunized at the worksites with the help of Aide et Action project staffs and local Primary Health Center. Aide et Action also engaged itself in organizing special health camps in collaboration with the government and private medical institutions of migrants at the worksites.
The organization’s recent efforts have been directed towards bringing working migrant women together to meet on a monthly basis to prioritize issues they wish to address. As a result, mothers’ committees have been formed that offer a chance to women to collectively monitorand manage education, nutrition and health programmes pertaining to children at worksites.
Since last few years, the organization has made an effort to dialogue with and influence various stakeholders like the facility owners, government officials, civil society organizations, NGOs
and the Media, for providing a safe and healthy environment to migrant workers and their families at worksites. Daily hygiene, birth registration, malnutrition, safety and care at worksites, access
to basic services like nutrition and health and basic learning are some of the issues raised by Aide et Action to influence the stakeholders for providing better living conditions to migrants.
These efforts have brought a great change in the lives of migrants who otherwise remain invisible and whose plight remains undocumented. These initiatives have brought smiles on the faces of the migrants, providing them better services and entitlements in a worksite situation. However, much is yet to be achieved.It would be possible only when the Government plays a proactive role by identifying these migrants and reaching out to them.
The author is part of the Migration Information Resource Center, AEAI SA. The article was published in Political & Business Daily.