When you burst firecrackers on Diwali, spare a thought for the hundreds of children who are illegally employed in cracker units.
This is the message of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh who feels that Diwali should be celebrated by lighting lamps only.
"I have never celebrated Diwali in my life by bursting crackers. I light lamps and perform puja, but no crackers. Because in cracker industry many children and bonded labourers are working. This should be an issue of concern for us," Ramesh said while announcing government's rehabilitation programme on bonded labourers in 10 critically vulnerable districts across six states.
"We cannot say that we have abolished bonded labour. It may be true on paper and we have laws on it, but we haven't managed to finish it," the Minister said, admitting that millions are still enslaved four decades after India enacted the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, 1976.
He said that the Ministry's ambitious National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) would join hands with NGOs and become an institutional partner of the Bandhua 1947 campaign to combat bonded labour.
Bandhua 1947 is national-level campaign aimed at mobilising people to advocate with their governments to protect millions currently vulnerable to bonded labour and fight for their rights.
"Under the NRLM umbrella, we will begin pilot projects in 10 districts which are considered to have a substantial population of bonded labourers. We will locate the bonded labourers there, get surveys done, rehabilitate them and create conditions for alternative livelihood," Ramesh said.
Starting December this year, NRLM will fund projects in the following districts: Gaya (Bihar), Bastar, Kondagaon (Chhattisgarh), Bolangir, Naupada (Orissa), Gumla (Jharkhand), Prakasam, Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh), Kanchipuram, Vellore (Tamil Nadu).
They will help locate and rehabilitate bonded labourers, by inclusion in self-help groups and their federations, provision of soft loans and vulnerability reduction funds, and special projects for alternative livelihoods including skill development interventions.
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