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
Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation (MVF), a registered trust, was
established in 1981 in memory of educationist and historian Prof. Mamidipudi
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:

Elimination of child labour
through community mobilisation
Campaign and advocacy at
all levels for elimination of all forms of child labour
Sensitisation of
communities for prevention of child marriages
Awareness programs about
legal laws on child labour and education.
Programs for implementation
of Right to Education Act, 2009
Formation of Balika
Sanghams (girl youth forums) of adolescent girls from the village level
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, chappal making, handicrafts
and several other products that starts before and after school hours until late
in the night at the cost of children’s health.
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

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. 
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
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
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:  
against corporal punishment in schools
and advocacy for effective implementation of “Right of children to Free and
Compulsory Education Act, 2009
for continuation of education of adolescent girls of 14 to 18 years of age.
against domestic child labour in Hyderabad and Secunderabad
for prevention of child marriages in the state
“Stop Child Labour” campaign across the world in collaboration with European
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.