Situation of Children in Odisha
More than one third of the state population, around one crore is below 18 years. Therefore, the future and strength of the state lies in a healthy, protected, educated and well developed child population. To neglect of child protection issues not only violates the rights ofthe children but also increases their vulnerability to abuse, neglect and exploitation. Government of Odisha is allocating 91% of child budgetary resource to childrens education and only 9% to child development, child health and child in difficult circumstances all combined. Moreover, it has a greater tilt towards non-plan expenditure. The state spends on an average 16% of their total plan budget and 8% of non-plan budget on children. The need of the hour is to change the direction ofthe child budgetary resource allocation towards development to see a better future for the children in the state. Children of Odisha work in different occupations such as agriculture and allied works,collection and processing of minor forest produce, domestic work/help, hotels/motels/road side Dhabas etc. Apart from these occupations, children are also engaged as apprentice, which istaken as normal process of growing by their parents and communities. Mute acceptance towards this normal process of growing in the name of child-help has encouraged child labour in our society, which needs to be discouraged. In 2009, state has approved a State Plan of Action for Children (SPAC: 2009-2012),which commits to ensure all right to children up to the age of 18, as per article-1 of the CRC. It is in accordance with the National Plan of Action for Children-2005. Study by different NGOs claims that 15% of Odishas child population within the age group of 5-14, works as child labours including those who work on their familys farm. In Odisha, there is a preference among employers for girl child as part-time domestic workers, as studied by Department of Applied Economics, Utkal University in 1997. The study found that nearly 90% of girl children started workbefore they completed 12 years of age.
More than 75% belonged to the age group of 12-14years. In addition, a study carried out by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) in 2001on child domestic workers of Odisha, reveals that lack of regular income by the head of the family (mostly daily-wage earners or small cultivators and fathers addicted to liquor) was a major reason for the incidence of child domestic labour. Intense poverty in backward areas where alternative avenues for earning are non-existent is responsible for the practice of child domestic workers. However, the status of primary education in Odisha is at alarming situation as mentioned below that in Odisha approximately 25% children (06-14) are out of school, 32% children in class one cannot identifyletters, 32% children in class five able to do division, 56% children in class five are able to read text book of class two and 66% children in class five able to tell time from clock. Only 4.5%students going to private schools are doing better from those in state government schools. This research conducted from 2005-2006 to 2007- 2008 in 30 districts, 883 villages, 17588 houses and 30,996 children of 03-16 years. School dropout percentage in Malkanagiri is 21.9 %,Rayagada is 17.7%, Koraput is 17%, Nabrangpur is 16.3% and Mayurbhanj is 14.9%.
Following instances put a light on situation of children in Odisha and violation of their rights:-
1.Incidence of Kalinganagar: - During the last one decade the state has witnessed a massive protest against displacement due to industrialization. Development of major industrial corridors like Rourkela-Sundergarh, Sambalpur-Jharsuguda,Angul-
2.Recruitment of Children by Naxals:- On28/04/2008, The Samaja, the Odia daily in its Bhubaneswar edition reported recruitment of children (8-10 year old) by the Naxals in the Malkangiri district. This has created a great concern among people of Odisha and a gross violation of child right.
3.Protest against POSCO: - Domestic and global media reported instances of violations of child rights and mis-use of children in the anti-POSCO movements by the agitators in the project area of Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha. Based on a complaint by Delhi Odia Student Association (DOSA) and All India Student Federation (AISF), a team headed by Dr. Yogesh Dube, Member of NCPCR visited POSCO project area and found that,blockade against land acquisition for POSCO consist of two layer of human shield. In the front layer 70-80 children in between 6-7 to12-14 years old are sitting. Women constitute second layer are behind the children. Some women appeared to be more than 50 years old. They were sitting in blockade since 10/06/2011 to 05/07/2011 irrespective of heavy rain, followed by some male persons. Children participating in blockade are not attending schools. Their schools are also occupied by 150 armed police personnel, which have created a sense of fear in the minds of these tender petals. As most of the families are residing in the transit camps opened at village Badagabapur under Dhinkia Panchayat since 2008, study of 35 children including adolescent girls are adversely affected. Some girls even left their study. Facilities under ICDS programme are not available in the transit camp.
4. Kandhamal Violence of 2008:- Communal conflict of Kandhamal in 2008 badly affected children. Houses were burnt down, people were killed, women were raped and molested, children were thrown out of the houses, their belongings like dresses, books, toys, and schoolbags etc were burnt. Total 24675 people, including more than 5000 children take shelter in 11 relief camps opened by district administration in nearby schools affecting thereby the course curriculum of children.
5. Labour Migration of Bolangir: - Bolangiris the epicenter of Migration. Migration to different brick kilns of Hyderabad, Raipur and Surat from drought-prone Bolangir,Kalahandi, Nuapada districts is a regular andannual phenomenon. The migration processstarts with the festival of Nua-Khai, the largest mass festival of Western Orissa,when farmers eat the first grain from theirnewly harvested crops and ends at Durgapuja. Thousand of labourers who were already taken advances from agents/middlemen arefound to be travelling along with their families and households to Surat, Hyderabad,Bangalore, Madras and Raipur in search of work. Children are the main victims of migration process. They do not enroll in any school, if enrolled, left their schooling whentheir families migrates. They work as child labour in the family labour segment at the costof schooling. Some parent also migrates after keeping their children in custody of their relatives in the village. Suffering of such children is painful and cannot be tolerated.
6.Children affected by Natural Disaster :- Natural disaster like flood, tidal waves, cyclone, drought, has become a regular Phenomenon in the state. Every year thousands of children continue to suffer from such natural calamities. The children in such circumstances do not get opportunity for education and health care services. The families losing out their livelihoods do not hesitate to engage the children as child laborite substantiate the family income. Following the 1999 super cyclone, Odisha experienced an unprecedented drought in four consecutive years from 2000 to 2004 thereby affecting the people and children.
7. Refugee Children: - Though data on child refugee is not available, but their magnitudein the state is quite visible. Thousands of Bangladeshis/refugees are reported to besettled in the districts of Balasore,Kendrapara, Nuapada, Malkangiri,Jagatsinghpur and Puri and Tibetans in Chandragiri. Most of the children of refugeeare engaged in rag picking in the cities and towns while children in coastal area are engaged in prawn seed collection and allied fishery activities. The children living in the urban slums and working as child laborers are deprived of health, education, good habitat and occupational safety measures. They are living in temporary makeshift rooms and in unhygienic conditions. The girl child suffers the most in terms of reproductive health and sexual abuse. There is no special programme for those children and their families. There are hundreds of instances of tortures, exploitations and assaults on child labour in the state going unreported. In some parts, it is very painful to watch a small child picking up the used plates in a hotel and then cleaning it, but the government officials and the police officers have not taken any necessary steps to eradicate this heart less practice. None of the government officials dares to take a step forward, then what about the local public. Mass awareness among public along with effective enforcement of different laws for the protection, welfare and care of children must be put in place.
President & CED,
Rural Life Development Society