Children of construction workers have to get a fair chance to develop.
Workers within the unorganized sector constitute over 92 percent of the total workforce in India, or about 370 million in number. These workers are paid poorly and have to cope on their own when there is any interruption in their working income due to recession, non-availability of work, sickness, accident or death.
In Karnataka, the number of unorganized workers increased from 9.7 million in 1981 to 13 million in 1991, and to 17.3 million in 2001. Most of these labourers were migrants moving from one state to another and from rural areas to cities. The state government has been taking some initiatives to provide these workers with social security. However, much remains to be done in the direction of designing a comprehensive social security package for all unorganized workers. The existing provisions are not enforced either, leading to immense suffering for the workers and their families.
The situation of the children of migrant labourers is especially pathetic. These children do not get the services they require – health, education, protection, etc., from the existing systems, as the rights of children demand.
KCRO [Karnataka Child Rights Observatory] along with various other organisations and networks in Karnataka including Bridge Network, Samtha Sainika Dala, Karnataka Construction Workers Welfare Action Group, Construction and other Building Workers Welfare Board, Forum of NGOs working with Street and Working Children, Campaign against Child Labour, Bangalore Unit, etc. began trying to find solutions to ensure the rights of the children of construction workers. To this end, an one-day consultation was organised with the involvement of other NGOs and government departments also at Bangalore on 16th Dec. 2008 with the following objectives:
i.To enhance social security for construction workers.
ii.To develop a comprehensive programme of education, protection and development for the children of construction workers.
iii.To establish delivery structures for utlising the resources available for migrant workers and their families efficiently and effectively.
The day-long consultation deliberated on various issues pertaining to construction workers and their children and came out with a list of recommendations. The consultation was attended by representatives of Government (Education, Women and Child Development Department, Labour Department), NGOs, UNICEF, labour unions, construction workers and the media. Freedom fighter Shri Doreswamy gave the keynote address; senior government officials and NGOs also addressed the meet. These speakers made several valuable suggestions.
Many groups working with construction labourers and their children shared their experiences on various problems faced by these children and their families. A documentary film on the situation was presented by Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), which also mounted a photography exhibition on the issue. A few construction workers shared their first hand experiences and views.
Participants were then divided into groups to discuss problems related to health, protection and development of the children of construction workers and to list their conclusions. These were then ratified in the plenary and recommended for further follow-up by Government.
1. Basic Amenities:
There should be a policy for improving basic amenities like toilets, drinking water, housing, ration card, voter ID cards .
The procedure of giving identity cards to the construction workers should be more simplified, easily accessible and rapid.
NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) should ensure strengthening of rural employment program and stipulate better wages for the rural people [to deter migration].
The Board Of Construction Workers Act should be suitabily amended so as to extend the benefit of health coverage not only to beneficiaries but also to their families.
Awareness on pre -and post natal care should be provided by the Health dept.
ANMs/ Health Visitors should visit the place where construction workers live.
Like ASHA (Accrediated Social Health Activist) in the National Rural health Mission, even USHA (Urban Social Health Activist) should be introduced very shortly.
Health services like clinics, mobile health vans, etc. should be made available near dwelling places of construction workers.
Awareness on immunization should be provided.
1.Anganawadis should have balsevika teachers and trained helpers; the timings of anganawadis should be extended till 4pm.
Govt. schools should be located in migrant colonies/clusters.
There should be equal treatment of migrant and other children in schools.
Two percent of their income should be set aside by builders for the education of the workers' children.
Shelter with elementary facilities should be provided for construction labourers.
Strict protection policy should be formulated to combat girl child abuse.