Reaching-out through 24 X 7 Child Rights Helpline

The Rajasthan Patthar Khan Nirman Mazdoor Sangathan (RPKNMS) has established a helpline number with support from the Stop Child Labour project. The helpline has been widely publicized in Government television channel – Doordarshan, apart from highlighting it in union leaflets, posters and banners. On this helpline, the union has received a number of calls including calls from children.

The helpline has transcended geographical boundaries with calls received not only from CLFZ areas, but from across Rajasthan State including Barmer, Pali, Nagaur, Ajmer, Jalore and Jaisalmer. A few calls were received from other States in India – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. A number of problems such as quality of schooling, problems in enrolment, school infrastructure have been highlighted by the callers. The helpline has not been only confined to child rights – there are a lot of additional issues and workers also call with regard to registration in the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, worksite grievances and related issues. Till date 788 calls have been received and of these calls received, 212 calls are from the two CLFZ areas Palri Mangaliya, Jodhpur District and Purohitsar, Jaisalmer District.

One such case is that of a stone quarry worker family in Mandore, Jodhpur. The household head – Loobhgiri Goswami who has five children and two of these children – Manisha Kumari (Age – 14 Years and had passed grade VIII with 78% marks) and Rakesh Giri (Age – 13 Years and had passed grade VI with 52% marks). As there was no Government High School in the vicinity, he wanted to enroll his children in nearby Private school – Om Saraswati Public Academy. However, during his visit to the school – his children were denied admission expressing concern over family’s background and also the ability to pay fees. Since, there was no other school in the vicinity, the family was very concerned on continuing children’s education. Manisha saw the union helpline number on the television and asked her father to call on the given number to seek any possible assistance.

On 5th July 2016 (Sunday), Loobhgiri Goswami spoke to the RPKNMS, General Secretary on the helpline number and expressed concern for continuing his children’s education. Immediately on next day, the RPKNMS (General Secretary – K.R. Bhati and Organiser-cum-School Mobilisers Deepa Ram and Manshah Nayak) visited the Om Saraswati Public Academy and met with the Manager and Principal and urged for providing admission to Manisha and Rakesh at the school. To put pressure on the management, the union further sought information on how many admissions have taken place at the school under the 25% Economically Weaker Section quota as stipulated by the Right to (Free and Compulsory) Education Act, 2009. The union also asked the school management to provide in writing for reasons of denying admission to Loobhgiri Goswami’s children.

Based on this, the school management after several rounds of discussion agreed to enroll the two children at their school. At present, both Manisha and Rakesh are studying at the school in grade 9 and grade 7 respectively and as of now their fees has also been waived. Similarly calls have been received from parents and children on the helpline from different villages including the two CLFZ villages i.e. Palri Mangaliya, Jodhpur and Purohitsar, Jaisalmer citing deficiencies in the schooling there.

This story is significant to the BWI/RPKNMS as the helpline has been one of its kind initiative that is attending to problems and concerns of not just child rights but also workers’ rights issues thus proving to be a holistic approach. The above-mentioned case is a success story of empowering children and workers in the stone quarry sector and kindles the hope that help to resolve their issues and concerns are just a phone call away.