06/09/2006, 00.00
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Indian Church says 'NO' to child labour

On the occasion of 'World Day Against Child Labour', the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India tells Catholics that to uproot this evil practice they must take the lead. Society's indifference is as much to blame for the problem.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Despite national laws and international agreements, government policies and commitments, child labour remains an unsolved problem in India. In order to stop this scourge, Mgr Joshua Mar Ignathios, chairman of the Labour Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), is launching an appeal to coincide with 'World Day Against Child Labour', on June 12.

"Awake, Arise and Stop Child labour," is the starting plea in Mgr Ignathios' long letter, released by the CBCI. After acknowledging India's great economic strides, its gains in the social and health fields, its many child protection laws, the prelate berates its failings.

"We are conscious that the evil practice of child labour exists amidst us but do not seem to have the will to eradicate [it . . .] and that makes a solution distant."
"With well over 100 million children led unceremoniously to the altars of drudgery, India takes first place in this most ignoble trade, second only to the slave trade to Americas," the letter said. "We have been discussing this over decades" but "an effective remedy remains elusive."

This phenomenon is due as much to indifference as poverty. For this reason the CBCI calls on Indian Catholics to take the lead in tackling the issue. Here are a few steps that can be taken:


-         "Make a firm decision not to avail [yourself] of child labour and that you will report any such incident to concerned authorities.

-         "Even if you see one of your very own relatives, local parish priests, church institutions employing any children speak out against this. We have to clean our own house first.

-         "[R]efuse to have tea or snacks in hotels served by children. Go up to the manager/cash desk and raise a question about the age of the person cleaning the tables/serving, etc.

-         Help families that cannot afford school fees and remember that "[m]any of our Catholic institutions country-wide have introduced 'special classes' for the poor.

-         "Work through and with other Non Governmental Organizations to see if you can motivate institutions/offices/small hotel/shops to put up a board outside which should read 'No children are employed here'."

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