Nuapada district, carved by way of bifurcation from Kalahandi district in 1993 is often know for a number of wrong reasons. Being one of the 100 most backward districts of the country this is also ill-reputed for its regular drought, child sale and distress migration. This district is geographically divided into three zone; the western fringe of the district beginning from Nangalbod in Sinapali Block to Godhas in Nuapada Block through Kathphar plateau of Boden and Sunabeda plateau of Komna ( Also a wild life sanctuary) is covered with the forest and shares common boundary with Chhatisgarh state. This area has predominantly a forest based economy with barter system prevalent in certain degree. This zone is neglected in all respect; may it be communication, employment provisions , education or administrative intervention. Most of the people are tribal and some primitive tribal groups such as Paharia ( officially not yet declared as even ST) and Chuktia Bhunjia live in this region. As it remained in the administrative shadow zone this has become the safe heaven for the Maoists.
The Second category of villages are in the valley area where there is the prevalence of land based and some off farm activities. But due to infertile land and lack of irrigation people remain largely neglected. This area is also dominated by ST and SC . The third category of village are it the plain area where people remain engaged in agricultural and some Petty income generating activities. OBC are the dominant social category it this region. But due to lack of irrigation potential and marginalization of small and marginal farmers agriculture no more remains a viable option.
Nuapada district experiences drought or drought like situation almost every year. Due to factors such as restriction of usufruct right, lack of employment opportunities at the appropriate time people use to migrate to the states such as Andhra Pradesh, TamilNadu etc. to work in the brick industry . They work under the worst possible condition and are treated inhumanly at the worksite. It may appear incredible, but is true that these labouerers now in thousands remain invisible in the government record.
Pathuria system of Labour
The most unfortunate part of this labour trafficking is that there is demand for family migration at the brick industry for obvious reasons. This is called pathuria system which is a work unit comprising a man , a woman and 1 to 2 children in the age group of 6-14. Advance is given to them on this basis which virtually means children form an important component of distress migration in Nuapada district. In the brick kiln there are specified works for them such as arranging and flipping the raw and semidried bricks, make balls of wet mud. They are preferred for such work due to their light weight. As per the study of the district administration of Nuapada in the year 2008 out of the total migrant population 12.66% are from the school going age and another 10.41% are infants. This means 23% of the migrants are child population.The study again highlighted that 88% of the migration are distress migration.
Children remain away from their village/school for a period of more than six month beginning from October/November to early part of June. So they suffer from the following problems:-
- They become dropout from school.
- Many of them become never enrolled due to regular migration.
- They undergo physical problem and mental trauma.
- They fail to cope up with the study, become slow in study leading to deficit learning.
- They are deprived of their child like sensitivity.
It is seen that at the work site the boys and girls have to work the same number of hours as their parents. They suffer the same verbal and physical abuse as adults do. There are terrible instances in this regard. Once a girl was trying to make her younger brother shivering with fever, get up because she was unable to carry all the bricks to the kiln, under the threat of the supervisor. Children suffer from respiratory, stomach, eye and skin problems along with water related diseases. Many children become knock kneed. Accident due to burns are very common which cause disability and even death but completely ignored by employers. Girls and women are very much exposed to sexual abuse.
Our approach towards migrant children:-
- To bring migrant children (6-14 years) in to the School net through opening of seasonal hostel.
- To provide children a healthy and secured living ( away from the hazardous atmosphere of brick kilns).
- To provide educational facilities to migrant children, improve their education standard and fulfill the RTE norms.
- To enhance quality of learning among the migrant children and help them reach 10th standard .
To create an enabling environment for community participation in running of seasonal hostel and involvement in school development .
Way back in 2004 Lokadrusti initiated a very practical approach to address this issue of child migration. In the 1st phase of our intervention Lokadrusti started with Seven seasonal hostels in seven most migration prone villages in Khariar Block with the American Indian Foundation(AIF) New-Delhi. Even if it was difficult to convince the parents to leave their school going children in such hostels we could save 193 children ( 124 boys and 69 girls) from certain migration. The BDO and the concerned S.Is. Of School inaugurated the Seasonal hostel and were moved and convinced by the Lokadrusti approach. The seasonal hostel were running in existing Govt. school of respective villages. We had to take the support of the village SHGs, school teacher, S.I.s of school, PRI members etc. in our endeavor.
Up scaling/ Replication
This seasonal Hostel approach started on pilot basis in 2004 became a successful model for the DPEP/SSA and after visiting the Lokadrusti run hostels they were convinced. During 2005 DPC and the staff of SSA visited our project area and witnessed our approach and discussed with the VEC and children at different seasonal hostels . Subsequently Lokadrusti facilitate DPC Nuapada along with SSA staffs to Hyderabad to see the migration scenario and the problem of children face at brick kiln. In this year Lokadrusti replicated this model in 16 villages of Khariar and Sinapali Block with the support of AIF and SSA, Nuapada. In these hostels 546 children ( 319 boys and 227 girls) were accommodated. SSA Nuapada also managed 3 such hostels directly through BRCC in Sinapali Block. The seasonal hostels are called Residential Care Centre (RCC) by the SSA authority. Another important addition was the bridge course which was arranged after the seasonal hostels were over. This was to mainstream those school going children whom we could not address and who had migrated with their parents. This successful model became an accepted norm and other NGOs also opened such residential hostels for migrant children. Lokadrusti with the support of AIF , SSA gradually up scaled this to more number of villagers of the district and during the period 2004-2012 it has successful saved 4671 children ( 3032 boys and 1634 girls) from dropping out from school and joining the labour force. In addition to this 2153 number of migrant children have been mainstreamed through bridge course and continue in their respective village Govt. school. Due to fund constraint Lokadrusti reduce the number of seasonal hostel over the year. In course of time we innovated and promoted the care giver system ( community based support system) to keep the children in the village to continue their education in village school and restrain them from migration to hazardous sites of brick kilns. This innovative approach is so as to involve the community and there by create a sustainable model. Since Lokadrusti has grass root base and rapport it indentified the close relatives of such parents who migrate. Then they were convinced to keep such children during the migration of their parents. They are used to be called Care Givers and the most important aspect is their emotional attachment with the children. This approach also sensitizes both the parents migrating and the Care Givers and the emotional and physical vacuum of the children in the absence of their parents. This may work as a deterrent for the parents to migrate any more. In 2010 -11 we kept 425 children(230 boys and 195 girls) with the Care Givers which increased to 732 ( 396 boys and 336 girls) in 2011-12. The Lokadrusti approach towards migrant children has become successful and during the last three years students from these RCC/ Seasonal Hostels have passed the HSC examination with merit and many have been enrolled in the colleges .
Lokadrusti use to maintain a migration register in each project village to know the migration trend. In addition to this we also help the community to draw social map around the neighborhood (catchment area) of the school and identify migration sensitive household by marking on map. And this is followed by child tracking register maintained at community level.
Achievements of the project intervention
- Lokadrusti has been able to develop community support system to keep the children in home based care during their parents migration. During last three years 1157 children(626 Boys & 531 Girls) has been kept at the Care Givers home.
- Earlier they were taking away their children on migration. It was difficult to convince them to leave back their children. But today they voluntarily bring their children to the RCC before migration. They are convinced on the role of RCC.
- Dropout rate has been reduced due to RCC and the bridge course.
- The government schools in those villages where RCC are run have been strengthened due to the impact of RCC.
- The community is actively involved and this has sensitized the community and present SMC to incorporate the issue of migration and provision for seasonal hostel and bridge(age appropriate) courses in their respective School Development Plan(SDP).
- The earlier VEC and present SMC is also involved in the RCC. This has activated them to play their role in the functioning of the existing government schools too.
- The children of the RCC are performing better than the children of the existing schools due to remedial classes etc. This is encouraging the school children to raise their performance on par with the inmates of RCC.
- Looking at the problem of regular migration of children under Pathria system Lokadrusti started learning enrichment programme with the support of AIF in migration prone villages of Nuapada district from the year 2009-10 and we were able to give learning support to deficit learning children from migration sensitive households. Till end of June 2012 we could cover 11594 number of children.
Difficulties/ Challenges :-
Migration and child migration is not an isolated or stray incident. We have to accept that this is a regular phenomenon which is increasing every year. In running seasonal hostels we find it difficult to accommodate children and given them a comfortable stay in the existing village government school. In many of the schools there is no electricity and water supply. Therefore it is required that there should be proper identification of migration prone households and their children should be kept at a place, may be at the G.P head quarter. We must create a permanent shelter for children of migrant parents with all basic facilities. We always encounter dearth of fund and looking at the magnitude of migration our approach intervention becomes limited . There is need to replicate and upscale it. In order to ensure more coverage and wriggle out of fund shortage we have innovated the system of Care Givers. But given the economic condition of such household it appears like an extra Borden for them. So government sponsored migration shelter is a viable alternative. The government must take initiative and Lokadrusti with its experience can give the support of training, capacity building etc.
Still there is a lot to do to change the mindset of the government functionaries. We find it difficult to convince them about the ugly face of distress migration and the trauma the children face.