child labour India
[Representational Image] In picture: A child labourer breaks down after being rescued.Reuters

Ludhiana district administration's apparent delay in processing more than 650 release certificates (RCs) of rescued child labourers has delayed their rehabilitation by over 4 years now.

Rescued between 2012-2016, from industrial units and various commercial and domestic establishments in Ludhiana, the release certificates of the children have either not been prepared or are pending with the child welfare commission and respective SDMs (sub-divisional magistrate).

Administration officials revealed 121 RCs are pending with district child rights protection office (a unit of CWC) and 103 are pending with SDM (east). Nearly, 58 RCs have not been signed by administrative officials, and more astoundingly, around 350 RCs certificates have not even been prepared.

Data obtained from an NGO revealed that 607 children were rescued by the administration till June 2016. Subsequent raids increased that number to 650 till now.

The Bonded Labour Act, 1976, specifies that a release certificate is essential for the economic and academic rehabilitation of the rescued child labourers and for grants amounting to Rs1 lakh (male child labour) to Rs 3 lakh (Rs 2 lakh for female, while Rs 3 lakh for rape victims) to be released for the purpose by the resident commissioner of the native state of the rescued child.

Furthermore, not even a single child has been enrolled in elementary education program mandated under State Action Plan for Elimination of Child Labour, the responsibility of enforcement of which, falls upon the district education and labour department.

Similarly, the process to release certificates was hindered as district labour department officials did not forward the records of the majority of the rescued child labours. The administration has also failed to ensure that the victims received their 'back wages' (wages for the extra work taken by their employer).

Gurjot Singh, District Education Officer, primary and Paramjeet Kaur, DEO, Secondary, passed the buck to each other when they were contacted for further details. The deputy commissioner of Ludhiana, Ravi Bhagat, who is the chairman of the District Taskforce Committee for Elimination of Child Labour, was not available for a reaction despite repeated attempts.