They skip classes and migrate with their parents
11 January 2001

BANGALORE: Kathyayini Chamraj Tukaram, an SC labour of Malakadevarahatti in Bijapur taluk, cannot work on the four acres of land provided to him by the government because he has neither bullocks nor a borewell.

His miseries do not end here as he also has loan of Rs. 18,000 incurred for fixing his leg, which was broken in an accident. Hence he migrates to Satara in Maharashtra for six months in a year to work as a bricklayer.

He takes his ten-year-old son, Siddesh, along to help him to augment his income to pay off his loan. Siddesh has hence dropped out of school.

In the Lambani thanda, Madhbhavi, of Bijapur taluk, families work from June to September as labourers. When the season is high, womenfolk earn Rs. 25 per day and men Rs. 60. But at other times they earn only Rs. 20 and Rs. 50 respectively.

But from October to June, they go with an agent to work in the quarries and construction sites in distant Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Mumbai in Maharashtra. The attraction is great as the women alone get Rs. 60-70 per day in these places.

A couple can earn anything between Rs. 20,000-30,000 in a single season in these big cities. If they take their child along, they can earn an additional sum of Rs. 3,000-4,000.

Many couples have been able to buy land for themselves in Madhbhavi within few years with their earnings. Many have also been able to replace their thatched huts with flat-roofed stone houses, typical of the area. But this enhancement of social and economic status has been at the cost of the education of their children.

While 45 children go to school in Madhbhavi, 60 of them do not as they migrate with their parents every year. Only ten children, who have grandparents to look after them, stay back in the village and attend school when their parents migrate.

In Heggadadevana Kote taluk of Mysore district, children go along with their parents for several months to the coffee estates in the neighboring Kodagu during coffee-picking season. It is mostly from the areas which are under-developed and which lack employment opportunities outside the agricultural season that one witnesses migration.

Most teachers accept the fact of children migrating for several months and not attending school as inevitable. The rules of the education department have nothing to say about how these children are to be educated.

There is no provision in labour laws to prevent agents from taking along school going children. The rules of the Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act and the Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, which apply to seasonal work and work migrants, have a provision requiring the contractor or agent to provide crehches for pre-school children under six years of age.

But nowhere is there a provision making the contractor responsible for the education of the school-aged children. There is also no specific provision in these acts banning the employment of children under 14. So most of these children end up working with their parents at these work-sites.

There is a need to amend these laws to make the contractor or agent responsible for ensuring that school-aged children of migrant or seasonal workers are put into free, government residential schools or hostels at their native places, before the parents migrate. So that the education of the child is not disrupted at the site.

Or if the children do come along, he should ensure that they are provided education at the site in their mother-tongue or arrange for their schooling in any other suitable manner at the place of migration. Co-ordinated by Maadhyam

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