New Delhi: Teachers under the National Child Labour Project Scheme (NCLP), operating since 1996, held a protest at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday, for being neglected by the Centre ever since the scheme was subsumed with the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in February this year under the Ministry of Education. NCLP was earlier under the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
After subsuming of the scheme, around 36,000 teachers were left unemployed in 272 districts of India, according to the protesters.
Under the NCLP scheme, children in the age group of 9 to 14 years were withdrawn from work and put into NCLP Special Training Centres, where they were provided bridge education, vocational training, stipend, etc before being mainstreamed into the formal education system.
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The merger of the scheme created a wave of agony among teachers in NCLP schools who complained that only students were merged while teachers were left in the lurch, with no job and were paid meagre wages. Most of them also complained that they had not been paid since the past five years, much before the scheme was subsumed with SSA.
Sitaram Umrani, president, NCLP Teachers’ Union, which held a protest here, told NewsClick: “We served for 26 years on such low wages for a social cause and now we are unemployed. Who will take care of our future and our children now? We will fight till we get our employment back.”
Umrani said during the lockdown, child labour had increased manifold. As per a study done by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF, Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward, there has been a sharp rise in children aged 5 to 11 years being forced to work over the past four years.
Over nine million additional children globally are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic and the number could rise to 46 million if they don’t have access to critical social protection coverage, the ILO report said.
Kanchan Ramdasani, one of the NCLP teachers in the protest, told NewsClick how difficult it was for her to travel for the protest. She said she had to borrow money and leave her son alone who had his exams in a few days. Yet, she was determined to raise her voice against this “injustice” along with her other colleagues.
Wednesday’s protest saw participation from NCLP teachers from 21 states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, etc. A meeting with the Education Minister was scheduled to be held on Thursday with a delegation on NCLP teachers along with Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
However, Umrani said they got to meet only the secretary of the Union Minister, adding that he “fears facing us as we speak the reality.”
S K Firoz, secretary, NCLP Teachers’ Union, told NewsClick that they had a tough time explaining to the police about their delegation and the reason for meeting the Minister, yet were “forced to leave before the meeting hour.”
The Minister’s secretary promised the delegation that he would speak to the Minister on their behalf and assured them that they would get their “employment back”, said Firoz.
However, the union members are unhappy with the meeting, as they feel that again “a false promise” was made to keep them silent. The fact that the Minister did not meet them also reflects how seriously their problem is being taken by this government.
The NCLP teachers are demanding that they be given their jobs back as “no one will employ them at such an age and this is a matter of their future and life.”
They said if the government continues to ignore their demand and ignores them, they will intensify this fight and take it to a wider level.
(The writer is an intern with NewsClick)