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Jeevika is an NGO based in Karnataka which undertakes a wide range of corrective measures to tackle the evil of Bonded labour. It is estimated that nearly 21% of Bonded labourers in Karnataka are children below the age of 18. These children are deprived the joys of childhood and a basic education, and are forced to accompany their parents to work on the lands of the landlord in order to pay-off the debt.

Bonded labour is a form of forced labour where the labourer is bound by the terms of debt taken on by the previous generation from the landlord. Despite being outlawed by the Indian Parliament, the practice of bonded labour continues to prevail in large parts of rural India due to reasons such as extreme poverty, illiteracy and discrimination against the lowest castes. Bonded labourers work under sub-human conditions: they work long hours and receive neither pay nor holidays in compensation. The landlords and middleman tend to manipulate the debt that binds the labourers to work so that it never diminishes and is passed on to their children and grandchildren.

Jeevika undertakes a series of measures to extricate children from Bonded labour. These include conducting awareness campaigns across villages in Karnataka, petitioning local administrators (and police) to intervene and remedy situations where bonded labour is identified etc. The most important programme undertaken by Jeevika in this regard is the Back to School Programme.

The Back to School Programme is positioned on the belief that every child below 14 is entitled to free education. This is a ‘bridge’ programme that focuses on children who do not go to school or have discontinued from school. These children are tutored and their skills nurtured until they are considered to be fit to join the formal schooling system. Jeevika’s activists ensure that the children are placed in government schools at the appropriate level.

Purpose / Goals

The primary purpose of Jeevika is to eradicate Bonded Labour from Karnataka and, to this end, to rescue children from labour. The aim is to provide these children with an environment that enables them to build confidence, skills and literacy. Once the children reach a level where they can benefit from the formal education, they are placed into government schools and their progress monitored. The goals of the programme are detailed below:

1. To identify children who do not go to school or whose education has been discontinued. To seek the support of parents and work in conjunction with local authorities in order to put a stop to child labour.
2. To bring children into â˜boarding centres™ where they are nurtured: provided food, shelter and, most importantly, the company of other children. Residence in these boarding centres ensures that these children are protected from being forced back into agricultural labour.
3. To train and monitor children and bring them to an appropriate level that allows them to fit into the formal education system. The bridge course does not offer formal education, as we understand it. A greater emphasis is placed on instilling self-confidence into children and on encouraging children to express themselves.
4. To make every effort to enrol children into Government Schools, usually after a year™s stint in the â back to school centres™. In the majority of cases, once these children are put into the Government school, Jeevika activists also ensure that these children reside in Government welfare hostels so that they are able to continue with their education.
5. To involve the parents of children who go through these programmes. In a majority of cases, the parents of these children contact Jeevika to enrol their children in these programmes. Jeevika™s awareness campaigns on Child Labour are specifically aimed to increase the awareness of parents about the rights and opportunities open to their Children.

Organization Description

‘Jeevika’ has been set up by the Vimukti trust to run ‘back to school programmes’ for children below 14 yeas, in order to prevent children from getting into bondage or other working situations detrimental to their growth. Vimukti Trust is a registered trust. It endeavours to organise legal assistance with the aim to secure compensation from the State for bonded labours

Jeevika operates two Back to School Centres. One is at the town of ‘Anekal’ where nearly 120 children currently reside. More than 200 children have graduated from the residential bridge programmes conducted in the Anekal Centre. The â˜Malur™ Centre (which has been specifically covered by this proposal) has now 100 children comprising of 2 bridge course centres, one boys and one for girls. The Malur centre was started 3 years ago and was upgraded in 2004 to accommodate both girls and boys.

Over the last 5 years, more than 200 children have directly benefited from the Back to School Programme centres started by Jeevika. These children have been rescued from a life of virtual slavery and been given the opportunity to experience a true childhood and to work towards a bright future for themselves. The children who have passed through these programmes have become more aware of their rights and many of them have themselves started to participate in the initiatives to eradicate bonded labour.