MVF Foundation in India – no child works

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following, another interview with an organization working for children, the MVF Foundation in India, whose aim is to take children from work, because no child has to work, and to support them to get a good education to manage their lives. Would like to thank Arvind for the detailed answers. 

What are the main activities of MV Foundation?
The Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation (MVF), a registered trust, was established in 1981 in memory of educationist and historian Prof. Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya.
Based on the non-negotiable principle that ‘no child works and every child attends full time formal school as a matter of right’, MVF has been working towards abolition of child labour in all its forms and mainstreaming them into formal schools, for more than two decades now. As a rights based grass root level development organisation, MVF has been actively conducting the following programs:


1.       Elimination of child labour through community mobilisation
2.      Campaign and advocacy at all levels for elimination of all forms of child labour
3.      Sensitisation of communities for prevention of child marriages
4.      Awareness programs about legal laws on child labour and education.
5.      Programs for implementation of Right to Education Act, 2009
6.      Formation of Balika Sanghams (girl youth forums) of adolescent girls from the village level
7.      Strengthening of local institutions such as Gram Panchayats and School Management Committees for implementation of RTE Act, 2009.
Why does the Child and Adolescent Labour Act not suffice to protect children?
The Child and Adolescent Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 2016 is an amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. It prohibits the engagement of children in all occupations and processes up to 14 years of age just so that they would enjoy their fundamental right to education under the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’ (RTE Act). At the same time the amended Act allows children up to 14 years to help in family in fields, home-based work, and forest and so on; and as artists in entertainment industry or sports activity subject to such conditions and of safety measures after school hours or during vacations.
    Further adolescent children in the age group of 14-18 years are prohibited from child labour in hazardous occupations and processes such as in mines, explosives and hazardous occupations set forth in the Factories Act, 1948.
     It also makes engaging child labour a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than six months to extend to two years or with fine not less than Rs. 20,000 to 50,000 or with both.  


Limitations of the Act
Allowing children to work in family enterprises and in entertainment industry before and after school hours defeats the very purpose of the Act which is to enable children enjoy their right to education.
    – It invisbilises the work of millions of children in farm work and also in home based units on beedi rolling, chikan work, bindi and bangle production, agarbatti and papad making, zari and embroidery work, packing and sticking labels, chappalmaking, handicrafts  and several other products that starts before and after school hours until late in the night at the cost of children’s health.
–     It maintains status quo and existing caste hierarchies in allowing children to help in traditional family occupation.
–     It legalizes exploitation of children from deprived and marginalized communities such as Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes, Muslims and a large number of girls.
–     It denies children the time and space to develop and grow as citizens with similar choices and opportunities that well to do children enjoy.
–     It contravenes the equitable right of all children to childhood and their entitlements to live a life with dignity as guaranteed by the Constitution of India and the UNCRC to which India is a signatory.
In prohibiting adolescent labour only in mines, production of inflammable substances or explosives and hazardous process assigned to it in clause of the Factories Act, 1948 it actually gives a legal sanction for employment of adolescent children in all other sectors
The amendment to the Act should have instead enabled children engage in activities   before and after school hours that fosters their active participation in school as a student and enhances their overall self-esteem and dignity
It should have banned all forms of labour adolescents are engaged in and provided for their access to mainstream education.
How do you promote children’s schooling?
Would like to show you two main programs we implement in this field:
*Bridge Course Camp: A residential camp strategy to mainstream older children in the age group of 9-14 years into age appropriate classes in schools.  It is essentially meant for reintegrating children who have either never attended schools or must have dropped out midway from schools. Normally children stay for a duration of 12 to 18 months in these camps depending on their previous learning levels and are subsequently mainstreamed into formal schools.
* CRPF: The Child Rights Protection Forum (CRPF) is an important stakeholder of M.V.Foundation (MVF) in tracking children out of school and ensuring that every child enjoys her right to quality education.  It was set up in the course of social mobilization in areas where MVF was active.  The members of the CRPF are from the community and represent a cross section of the community that includes all castes (Upper Castes and Dalits), all classes (Large and small farmers, agricultural labourers) and those in the service sector such as truck drivers, clerks, school teachers etc.) and also women. 
How is it possible to fight children’s labour when the poverty of the families requires them to work?
This is the classic “ Poverty Argument”. The answer to this question depends on how you frame it. If the question is, ”Is it not true that if a family is extremely poor and is in desperate straits then the parents would need to send their child to work?” Then the answer of course is ‘YES’. However, if the question is “Are all families now sending their children to work so poor that they need their child’s income in order to survive?” the answer is an emphatic ‘NO’. The tragedy of the child labour situation in this country is that it is simply assumed that every labourer is working because it is an issue of survival for the family. This is the most insidious aspect of the Poverty Argument. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Poverty Argument for all its appearance of being logical is completely flawed. Interestingly enough it is not even easy to prove. If it were true then in every village the poorest should drop out from school first and enter the labour market.  However, rural areas are full of examples of children belonging to very poor families who are in school while their relatively better off counterparts are working. A large number of factors that have nothing to do with the economics of the situation, such as tradition, ignorance of parents on account of illiteracy, lack of access to alternatives, insensitive administration and so on govern the decision of the family to send a child to work or to school. The Poverty Argument ignores all these aspects and views every thing as a purely economic decision.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
MVF works in collaboration with the following government departments.
Education Department: To map out all children in and out of schools through a process of door to door survey and cohort analysis. The out of school children identified and be enrolled into schools through flexible procedures and bridge courses.
Labour Department: To conduct an assessment of all illegal factories / work places employing children.
Women and Child Welfare Department : To facilitate the  required number of shelter homes, observation homes and juvenile homes for children rescued from child labour and from other difficult circumstances. Also to facilitate establishment of required number of ICDS (Anganwadi centres) and monitor the functioning (of existing centres) for pre school children.
Revenue Department: To issue necessary certificates of birth, caste, income etc. required for childrens admission into schools. To make registration of all marriages compulsory in the area.
Police Department: To conduct periodical raids on factories, shops and establishments employing children and send them to suitable homes for rehabilitation. Parents and communities can be counselled and warned by them to prevent cases of child marriages.
MVF works with all the above government departments for elimination of child labour and smooth facilitation of children’s entry into schools.
MVF also works with local institutions such as Gram Panchayats and School management committees for strengthening them on their respective roles in tracking, enrolment and retention of every child in school.  
Which are your current projects and programs?
Actually, we implement the following at MVF:  
1.    Campaign against corporal punishment in schools
2.   Campaign and advocacy for effective implementation of “Right of children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
3.   Support for continuation of education of adolescent girls of 14 to 18 years of age.
4.   Campaign against domestic child labour in Hyderabad and Secunderabad
5.    Campaign for prevention of child marriages in the state
6.   International “Stop Child Labour” campaign across the world in collaboration with European countries.
7.    MVF’s focus is on rights of children in the 15-18 years age group. It is mobilising communities to support girls to pursue their education until completion of 18 years of age. They are given the confidence to exercise agency to defy patriarchal values and practices of gender discrimination and early marriage.