As directed by the High Court in the out-of-school children’s case, CIVIC participated in inspecting data of four districts on their out-of-school children. In Davangere, officials related that children come to school, give attendance and then go away to work in the puffed-rice units (called ‘Mandakki Batti’ in Kannada) that abound in that city. The DC had hence called all employers of the puffed-rice units and made them take an oath not to employ children. The irony was that more than 15 years ago, UNICEF had a programme there for several years to eliminate child labour in the Mandakki Battis and similar oath-taking programmes had been held then. When questioned why teachers could not lock the gates of the school once the children entered the school, there was no answer.
In Raichur, children continue to work on Bt Cotton farms pollinating cotton flowers. Teachers are again aware of it but seem to be helpless to do anything. Moreover, HMs are also ‘Inspectors’ under the Child Labour Act and have all the power to file cases against the employers, but this is not happening. Nor are they reporting the cases of child labour to the Labour Department so that they take action.
There did not seem to be any ‘institutional memory’ in the Education Department on what had happened in Davangere already during the UNICEF project. In the highest echelons of the government also, there is no “institutional memory” of the changes that had been brought about through this court case more than five years ago. Govt. orders that had been issued and protocols that had been developed have all been forgotten, once officials changed, making civil society organisations fight the same battles in cyclical fashion every five years.