As shiny new towers add to the jagged skyline of Mumbai, India’s financial capital grows ceaselessly, land crunch forcing it to move further upward. Everywhere in this Maximum City construction cranes and upcoming buildings pause in the sky as they complement Mumbai's colonial architecture with the new.
In this vast construction activity a huge workforce is involved. They are construction site labourers. Of this vast workforce, 30% are women. These women bring their little children to the construction site as there is none at home to take care of them.
The concept of mobile crèches for these construction workers was introduced to lessen the risk of freaky construction-related mishaps involving the children. This concept was the vision of Meera Mahadevan who initiated mobile crèches way back in 1969. A housewife then, she was walking by a construction site when she stopped by the sight of a baby lying unattended in the scorching sun. That's when she began this social movement named "Mobile Crèches".
Mumbai Mobile Crèches is a successful example of mobile crèches that has changed the lives and fortunes of many such children and their parents working as construction-site labourers. Since 1972, they have been consistently trying to promote "child-friendly sites" where every child living on a construction site is safe, healthy and educated. Their vision is to give all children a secure, happy and nurtured life.
Mumbai Mobile Crèches has taken roots in as many as 27 such constructions sites across Mumbai and caters to the need of almost 5000 children. They have day care centres that are set up in rooms on the construction site itself. Each crèche is divided into three different sections - one for children under three years of age, a preschool for three to five year olds and a bridge course to help older children get access to local municipal vernacular schools (Marathi medium). They also provide an after school programme to assist children with their studies and give them vocational training too. They provide integrated approach for providing all the basic services for improved childcare following the ICDS (The Integrated Child Development Services).
These centres are run by a specially trained staff, mostly women, who are given six month training on childcare, hygiene and education. These women are employed and trained by the programmes adopted by Self Help Groups. This has raised their economic status, social status and decision making power. These women mostly belong to the minority community. Currently Mumbai Mobile Crèches has staff strength of 121 women.
Today for any big construction project that comes up in Mumbai, Mumbai Mobile Crèches steps in as a care provider. Builders too are coming forward to promote such childcare crèches at their sites which ensure greater productivity of the workers and safety of children. That's the reason the builders arrange for a place on the site and the children stay with the crèche workers in the day-care centre as long as the construction project continues.
"Accessing the builders has always been the toughest challenge for us", says Shreya, an active supporter of Mumbai Mobile Crèche. “A couple of years back the condition of these crèches were pitiful with no running water and toilet facilities. But thankfully today builders are more aware and willing to contribute for the children”, she says.
The children are brought up in a fun-filled and cheerful environment away from dust, heat and diseases. Such mobile crèches urge more and more builders to avail of the services for the children on their sites by contractual agreements.
“Builders' association should promote the idea for basic facilities in mobile crèches since it is a project based idea and not a long time commitment. This may also serve as a social chapter in their marketing,” says Shreya.
Taking care of children is quite a big task that involves responsibilities like improved nutrition, education, reduction in teenage parenting, higher school attendance, hygiene, health, vaccinations etc.
The kids are dropped off at the day care centre by their parents at 9.30 am. They are then fed and taken care of by the caretakers till the return of their parents at about 5 in the evening. Since more than 80% of the labourers are migrants, they linger on in a place for a minimum of two years. Their children are trained and brought up at the mobile crèche after which they are enrolled in primary municipal schools. After these labourers migrate to some new site, the children are not tracked anymore. So there is no guarantee that their parents' next workplace will have a mobile crèche to take care of them.
But according to survey it has been seen that most children who manage to continue with school and complete their studies graduate to a higher economic strata and become part of mainstream economic life, pursuing diverse careers. Ironically these children succeed to become a respectable part of the society unlike their parents who never had any visibility in the society with no voting rights and identification. Clearly mobile crèches are bringing transition in the lives of the labourers who are otherwise ignored in the social mainstream.
For further details please visit www.mumbaimobilecreches.org
: : by Preeti Pooja : :