Tamil Nadu, a Catholic NGO's struggle against child labour
by Santosh Digal
Between 85 and 100 million working children in India. The Hand in Hand Association is active since 1984 and works in four states in the country. Committed to the fight against poverty, it has eradicated the scourge of child labour in the district of Kancheepuram.

Chennai (AsiaNews) - The charitable NGO Hand in hand is defeating the scourge of child labour by providing education to children and working mothers in the district of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, South India.

Hand in Hand is an association, officially registered in 2002, which since 1984 has aimed to eliminate the problem of poverty in India. After having understood that child labour is one of the main scourges of poverty, the association has undertaken an attempt to cure it. Hand in hand focuses on five points: micro-credit, education, health, centres for citizens and transparency.

In India there are over 420 million people living in poverty and child labour is one of its wounds. New Delhi prohibits the employment of children under 14, but has failed to eradicate the phenomenon. According to the government, an estimated 12 million children are working. However these figures are considered unreliable by the UN, which estimates the real number between 85 and 100 million.

"One of our first projects in India has been in Kancheepuram, famous for its silk industry," Santhus Gnanapragsam, a Catholic, project leader and former member of Caritas India for 20 years tells AsiaNews. "Today is not a single child is working."

After a series of investigations, Hand in Hand found that parents often send their children to work to earn a few rupees and thus contribute to family income. The NGOs, through training in entrepreneurship and loans, has enabled mothers to begin small and medium-sized businesses. "Once we had done this- says Gnanapragsam - we asked mothers to spare the children from work and send them to school. In Kancheepuram it was a success. "

Hand in hand has also opened seven free schools in the district to educate the children subject to child labor from the elementary to college levels. Today the association has 600 employees and is active in four states: Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.