About the area
The Tiljala project is located in the Park Circus area of Kolkata. Park Circus itself is a very busy intersection, also known as Seven Point Crossing, and is notorious for its traffic congestion. Behind the busy main roads are residential areas of narrow lanes and dense housing, while beside the railway tracks are squatter communities living in shelters built from waste materials.
The population of the area is predominantly Muslim. This began as long ago as 1870 when Muslim immigrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh began to settle, and by 1947 the area had a majority Muslim population. The numbers further increased during and after the Bangladesh War in 1971 when Kolkata received an influx of refugees.
The people of this area are engaged in a wide variety of employment such as cycle rickshaw drivers, car mechanics, selling goods in markets and small shops, tailoring, cleaning and domestic help. However, few occupations provide a sufficient income or long-term security to support whole families, thus children are often pressed into work alongside adults.
About the local organisation and history of CRS involvement
Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development (Tiljala SHED) is a grassroots organisation established in 1987 which seeks to support poor, downtrodden and minority groups in both urban and rural areas of West Bengal. Their primary focus is on helping child labourers by campaigning against this practice, supporting these children and offering alternatives.
CRS began supporting Tiljala SHED in 2014. The focus of this project is working children in the Park Circus area of Kolkata. Among the jobs that they do are rag picking, lace cutting, glove making, car repair, roadside vending and domestic work. In most cases they work for long hours, often in dangerous or unhygienic conditions, and are rarely paid more than a pittance. They are also regularly subject to physical and verbal abuse.
Current CRS programmes
CRS supports a programme for 50 working children. Some have never attended school or are drop-outs so they are given tuition to attain a minimum level of educational proficiency in order to be mainstreamed into government schools. Others are given vocational training in skills that will enable them to earn a living. A small stipend encourages the children to pursue studies and training rather than continuing with rag picking.
Children who attend the centre are given a nutritional hot meal every day and also receive health check-ups. From time to time the children are also taken on trips to museums or theme parks where they can enjoy having fun and simply being children.
“I come from a very poor family. My father is a cycle rickshaw puller but the money that he earns is mostly spent on booze. When he is drunk, he hits my mother.
We have to try to earn a little money however we can. My mother and my brother, Rahim, are rag pickers. They collect waste from the streets and from big businesses. I help to sort the waste materials into different categories for recycling and resale.
I used to study at the Non-Formal Education Centre but sometimes it was more fun to spend time gambling with my friends. But then I realised that was no good – I wanted to study properly. Tiljala Shed arranged a place for me at Debendra Vidyapith school for girls which is great. I also go to the remedial centre for additional coaching to help me keep up in class.
I am now in Class VI and doing quite well. I would like to become a teacher and start working so that I can support my family. Tiljala Shed is trying to help my family in other ways too through their income generation schemes.”
– Tanzila Khatoon, beneficiary of Tiljala Shed
Support is needed to continue with his vital work to prevent more children from entering the rag-picking trade. Funds cover the provision of a midday meal, doctor visits and medicines, the honorarium for the teacher, and health awareness programmes in the community.