Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Extension of ICDS service to the children of Migrant Labourer

Umi Daniel

In India access and extension of Integrated Child Care Service to the migrant children is a huge challenge. Growing incidence of migration of poor people to cities and urban location to work as unorganised labourer is on the rise. Tens and thousands of poor families are seasonally moving to far flung places to work in construction, brick kiln, stone crusher and other unorganised sectors. India is yet to formulate a policy of portability of rights of poor migrant workers who spend half of their life in a work site with their family often being excluded from all basic entitlement and services.  Portability of right is like a citizens enjoys roaming entitlement & services whenever one does move or settle.

Many civil society organisation and rights groups have been advocating for an inclusive access to various government entitlements for the migrant workers. However due to lack of authentic database of migrants, information about children and families living at the work-site, lack of honest effort from the establishment employing migrant labourers to register the labourers with the labour department and absence of effective coordination between labour sending and receiving district/state government department are the major hindrance to create an inclusive process for the migrant workers to access all government welfare and entitlements.

The Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India in a circular issued on 13 April 2011 extended ICDS services to children of migrant labourer and temporary residents. the extension of services would have huge implications for the vast majority of children who are effected by migration and whose parents work on construction sites, brick kiln, stone crusher and other ailed sectors.  This right was denied to the migrant children since the inception of the scheme. The circular was earlier extended to all States and UT barring West Bengal as the election code of conduct was applicable in Bengal during that time. However, later an order was issued from the department extending it to West Bengal as well.

It is a welcome step for the government to extend the flagship programme like ICDS to the children of migrant labourer. However there is hardly any progress is visible on the ground since one year has passed. It seems very few action has been put by the state government to do a mapping of children, work site, temporary habitation and implement ICDS programme for the excluded migrant children.

Today due to the faster economic growth, large number of migrant workers and their families  flocking to the cities and living in a inhuman settlement. The children and particularly infant and mothers are the worst sufferer and always remain invisible to access any government entitlements. Therefore, It is imperative for the State government to take up the programme with letter and spirit. First and foremost thing for the government is to Identify the child and mothers and tag them up with the ICDS programme and subsequently mainstream back the child with the same scheme when they are back in their village. 

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