HYDERBAD, India - The train screeched to a halt in the crowded terminus, the signal for luggage porters to descend on passengers along with scores of children selling cold drinks and steaming mugs of tea. Not long ago 10-year-old Ramu would have been one of these children working at the vendors' stalls surrounding the train station.
Now, thanks to an ILO-supported initiative, he says proudly: "I want to study hard to become an important officer tomorrow."
Shivaleela, a 12-year-old girl, has similar dreams. She used to wash utensils for a catering firm serving small hotels near the railway station. "Now that I am going to school", she says, "I also have a chance to achieve something in life".
Hyderabad, founded 400 years ago, is one of the largest growing technology hubs in this nation of more than one billion people. The city is known informally as Cyberabad - "the most-wired city in India" and the Government is working hand-in-hand with the private sector to ensure its success as a world-class city.
One of these programmes is the 'October 1st Initiative' - named after the day when more than 500 hotel owners from across the southern State of Andhra Pradesh came together and resolved not to employ children in their hotels. This did not happen overnight but after 18 months of major hotel owners mobilizing their members to take a common stand against child labour.
The operation also involved the ILO Andhra Pradesh Project for the Elimination of Child Labour and CEASE Child Labour (A Consortium of Employers' Associations). They campaigned to create awareness among member owners of the need to end child labour in the hotel industry. In India, the term "hotel" covers not only large, traditional establishments and the smaller versions but also tea shops, cafes, small hotels and wayside eateries.
Mr. C.S. Reddy, CEO of CEASE Child Labour declared that "mainstreaming child labour as a core issue in all activities of member associations is now part of our Charter".
Hotelier associations were quick to act on the Charter and laid down a road map for ending child labour throughout the industry and to help in the rehabilitation of those children who were working, to get them to school.
"The hoteliers sent out a strong signal for all other employers to sit up and take similar action in their industries," says M.P. Joseph, the ILO-IPEC coordinator in Andhra Pradesh. Slowly, after much personal and collective zeal and efforts, district level associations began to change their attitude and stand against child labour - which led to the October 1st Initiative and won the approval of all social partners - government, workers and employers.
Mr. N. M. Adyanthaya (Workers) told World of Work magazine: "This child labour project showcases a model project for other ILO programmes and could even be a model for most nations to adopt in a global context. The major success of any programme is motivation of people."
"For the first time, national trade unions around the country are seeing eye-to-eye and child labour is one issue where all the national centres of the trade union movement have come together to eliminate the menace of child labour. All office bearers of trade unions have joined hands and through the CEASE programme, employers and trade union confederations have made a 'working partnership' with the ILO acting as a catalyst."
The Employers representive, Mr. I.P. Anand, noted that "unless you link vocational training with efforts to eliminate child labour, it or this scourge will continue to reappear. The ILO has to create and run pilot schemes selectively, particularly in rural and poor areas.
"We are helping to set up a curriculum and a draft project for post-preliminary education, in order to open training centres within 1, 2 and 3-star hotels. These will enable children taken out of work to receive basic education and continuing vocational training, tailored to suit their individual talents, and to enable them to become employable when the time comes. We are cooperating in every way possible to make this a reality".
For his part, Mr. Joseph, the ILO Coordinator for this project in Hyderabad says: "The ILO is making sure that it works together with the local counterparts to give thousands of children such as Ramu and Shivaleela the opportunity to fulfil their dreams to become someone and achieve something in life."