Mumbai: Anti-Child Labour Campaign

The beginnings...

Outside Khar station on the western side, live a community of people who make and sell "Gajras". They live on the street and till a couple of years ago, their children helped in making and selling gajras.

In April 2006, the Anti - Child Labour campaign by the volunteers kicked off amongst this community. A team of volunteers spent time each weekend interacting with the community to understand why their children worked rather than go to school. The volunteers wanted to work together with the community to enroll children in the nearby municipal school.

Over the past two years, the field work for the campaign moved to Thane. Today, there is both an Anti - Child Labour campaign on the ground in Mumbai city as well as an online campaign inspired by the on ground one.


Right from the beginning of the campaign, it has aimed to engage with the root causes of Child Labour -

  • To understand why it is that children in our country continue to be compelled by circumstances to work, to survive.
  • To try and ensure systems by which all children go to school.
  • To ensure that children who are currently in situations where they are working, have access to a well thought out plan for rehabilitation. 

The campaign asks are:

  • To build public pressure to ensure the holistic rehabilitation of children in labour
  • To ensure that children go to school, not work

Initiatives thus far...

Over the past two years, volunteers have conducted a variety of activities in order to understand why Child Labour exists, what its root causes are and how to engage with diverse stakeholders to address these root causes.

(a) Legislation on Child Labour: In 2008-09, interns from Government Law College (Mumbai), National Law School (Bangalore), University of York (UK) worked to understand the legislation on Child Labour and the specific provisions made for Rehabilitation of Child Labour. Their work contributed to build the understanding of the campaign group on the issue.

Download Posters on ACL

Download FAQs on ACL

Read a volunteer's report on Rehabilitation Schools

(b) Building a Shopkeepers' Collective: In October 2006, the Ban on Child Labour was extended to children being employed in shops, the hospitality sector and as domestic help. Volunteers met with several officials and had multiple discussions on the impact and the implications of the ban.

In August 2007, CRY volunteers went on a drive to mobilize shopkeepers to stand up for Child Rights. The message they communicated was two-fold:

  • Do not hire child labour. Child Labour under 14 years is illegal. Children should be in School!
  • Join the CRY volunteer campaign against child labour! Add your Voice!

Volunteers created a pamphlet explaining the legislation and its impact on the shopkeepers. They contacted key people like the Vice President of Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association to address collectives of shopkeepers or those in the hospitality industry. They also worked hard to get space to address the Vyapari Union as well.

Many shopkeepers voiced their concern about children who are 'rescued' from their place of work. What happens to the children post raid and rescue?

Volunteers also realised that most shop owners employ children only through reference! And that most children come from the interiors of Maharashtra and outside Maharashtra, thus giving evidence that there is perhaps a nexus of trafficking that is adding to this problem.

Despite several attempts to form a shopkeepers' collective, the desired outcome evaded the volunteers. They realised that although the ban was in place on paper, the realities of implementation and the need to change get employers themselves to stand for Child Rights continue to pose huge challenges in the fight for rights of children.

(c) Thumbprint Campaign: In 2008, the volunteer teams took out a month-long campaign leading up to Anti Child Labour Day on 12th June, with the aim of pressuring the Labour Department in Mumbai to formulate and implement a rehabilitation policy with regard to Child Labour. More...

Interacting with the public at various venues like malls and bookshops, volunteers collected the Thumbprints of 1500 people who agreed that Children should go to School, not Work. 1300 people signed inland letters to Mr B D Sanap, Labour Commissioner, Mumbai exhorting him to:

  • Implement the ban on child labour: No child below 14 years should be employed in any labour
  • Rehabilitation: Implement holistic rehabilitation policies
  • Education: Every child upto 14 years of age should have access to free, equal and quality education

However, despite these efforts and despite meeting with the Mayor of Mumbai and the Labour Commissioner of Mumbai, the volunteers found that the campaign had little impact.

Through 2008-2009, volunteers met with the Director, NCLP (National Child Labour Project) several times and visited various bridge schools with him. These schools run 3 year programmes for child labourers, covering the syllabus for Class 1 to Class 5 in 3 years so that at the end of that time, the child can be mainstreamed into government schools.

Many of the children, the volunteers interacted with shared their dreams and aspirations to pursue their studies and get out of the cycle of manual and poorly paid labour. Teachers explained to volunteers the challenges of encouraging parents to send their children to school and how issues of child marriage, unemployment and exploitation of children are the main reasons for children being reluctant to join formal schooling at the end of this 3 year programme.

Volunteers continue to be convinced that the issue of Rehabilitation of Child Labour is an area that needs immediate attention.

(d) Campaign against Child Labour through 2009-2010: A signature campaign with a difference, the aim was to raise awareness and build pressure to eliminate child labour. View Details of the campaign (PDF). To know more about all the activities under the campaign click here

(e) Networking: Through this activity volunteers would go out in the Bandra and Khar areas and approach residents door-to-door or through a poster drive to reach out and build awareness about the campaign. The aim was to sensitize people about the issue of child labour and enable more and more out of school children to be enrolled into near by municipal schools.

More importantly this activity was to reach out to the RWAs (Residential Welfare Societies), NGOs, senior citizen groups, youth clubs, etc. to influence them and get child labour on to their list of concerns for the area.

Over the past year or so, volunteers visited NCLP (National Child Labour Project) run bridge schools in Thane district and interacted with children, teachers and administrators of the schools to get an idea of the challenges faced in taking children out of work and enabling them to go to school.

They also interacted with a cross section of stakeholders including other NGOs working on issues related to Child Labour; communities where children continue to struggle to go to school; government officials responsible for education, community development, labour and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan; Resident Welfare Associations; teachers etc.

All this contributes to building a network of like-minded people to build a voice to Send Children to School, not Work

Do you want to help or join our initiative:

If you are a collective of journalists, college students, law students, residents of a particular area, or just a group of concerned citizens, join in to build a voice to ensure that Children go to School, not Work.

  • Interact with residents in your neighbourhood - including those in slums, flats, societies, shops etc - to know how many children go to work/ how many children don't go to school
  • Build a group of like-minded individuals
  • Hold focus group discussions to understand why children feel unable to access school, what challenges parents face etc
  • Contact our Child Labour volunteer team to create an advocacy plan and join in to build the voice for holistic rehabilitation of children who labour






Archives of the Anti-Child Labour campaign

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