Child Labour

By – Supriya

Today’s child is a citizen of tomorrow . The condition of a child foretells the future of any society or nation. Children are the real mirrors of the society – the quality of life of a child reflects how progressive a society is. With the dawn of the twenty first century, one of the problems prevalent globally is the problem of child labour. Millions of children in the world have been forced into child labour owing either to non – schooling or due to dropping out from the school at an early age. Child Labour may be defined as one who has not yet attained the age of 14 years and whose physical, mental and social development has suffered due to his pre – mature employment. Children make up 36% of the country’s total population. We might boast of being the largest democracy on account of numbers , but we definitely don’t seem to be the greatest one. Due to various circumstances , young children are exploited and are forced to forget the pleasures of childhood. At the age when children should be going to schools or playing at playgrounds they are burdened with the hardships of life and denied their childhood. According to the National Child Labour Project 2001 census, there are 12.6 million working children in India. Uttar Pradesh tops this list as 1.9 million innocents are employed in this state alone in various hazardous and non- hazardous activities in agricultural sector, glass factories , carpet industry, brass industries , March-  box factories, on streets as beggars and hotels. However, the fact is that not only in a few selected states but across the length and breadth of the country, a large number of childhood is in a pathetic condition.

According to a recent ILO report, about 80% child labourers in india, and are employed in the agriculture sector. The children are generally sold to the rich moneylenders to whom borrowed money cannot be returned. More than 60,000 children work in extremely inhospitable conditions in the glass and bangle industry under conditions of excessive heat. Almost 4,20,000 children are employed in the carpet industry of India, and than 70,000 work in match-box factories.

Child labour is one of the social evils that has been crippling the Indian society since a very long time.Its presence can be felt everywhere – be it a rural village or a metropolitan city. The small scale industries or Karkhanas are the breeding grounds for child labour.These children are in almost every sector of the economy – both organized and unorganised . Even though child labour is illegal large number of children are found working in factories or Karkhanas, or are working in mines,bidi, carpet , match, fireworks, brass and pandaan, agarbathi and automobiles industries . In urban areas many children work as shoeshine boys, newspaper hawkers, domestic servants and work in hotels, autoshops and plastic recycling factories. The automobile repair- shop industry is one that every one sees in his daily life. We can see these shops in every nook and corner. Young children are being illegally employed in such professions as they can be paid less. Poverty, illiteracy and insufficient resources in family , force the parents to send their children to work . Sometimes , brokers lure parents to force their children into child labour by making false promises.

Elimination of child labour is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges facing our country. Various articles of the Constitution prohibit the employment of children in factories . Under Article 24, it has been stated that no child below the age of 14 shall be employed in any factory or mine or any other hazardous occupation or work. Similarly, Article 31 provides that the state shall ensure that adolescent children are not forced to accept an employment detrimental to their age and physical ability owing to economic compulsions. Children should be provided opportunities to develop in a healthy manner and in a free and respectful environment in which they are protected against exploitation of their childhood and adolescence. Under the schedules of the Child Labour ( Prohibition and Regulation) Act,1986, employment of children is prohibited in 12 occupations and 51 hazardous processes. The Government of India formulated the National Child Labour Policy in 1987 to tackle this problem . It aims at rehabilitation of child labour, implementation of the National Child Labour Projects, grants-in-aid to the voluntary agencies and promoting international programmes for the elimination of Child Labour. For the rehabilitation of working children, special schools and rehabilitation centres have been established where there is a provision of informal education , vocational training and nutrition for the children relieved from work.

On reviewing the factors behind the prevalence of child labour, we find that the social structure , poverty, family size, poor income, and lack of education are some of the major factors that have intensified the problem of child labour in India. The Gurupadswami Committee report shows that problem of child labour is a direct result of poverty whose elimination in itself is a great problem. Government has been taking proactive steps to tackle this problem through strict enforcement of legislative provisions along with simultaneous rehabilitative measures. The strategy for implementing the scheme under the 5- year plan aims at greater convergence with the other developmental schemes to bring about qualitative changes. The plan intends to focus and reinforce action to eliminate child labour in the hazardous occupations. Through expansion of National Child Labour Projects to additional 150 districts , it is focusing towards linking the child labour elimination efforts with the scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to ensure that children in the age group of 5-8 years get directly admitted to regular schools and that the older working children are mainstreamed to the formal education system through special schools functioning under the NCLP scheme . Its other objective is convergence with other schemes of the Departments of Education, Rural Development , Health , and Women and Child Development for the ultimate attainment of the objective in a time – bound manner. However, the problem of child labour is an intense socio- economic issues in India that requires long – term multi – pronged strategies to be carried out on a continuous basis. These strategies should include enforcement of Child Labour Act, strengthening of primary education in rural areas, rehabilitation of child labourers, improvement of economic conditions of child’ s parents through poverty alleviation and employment generation programmes. A strong enforcement of the labour acts may be done to ensure legal action against those who employ children at work. The child labour is an evil that requires awareness and change of approach among all sections of the society. The government , media and NGOs have to unite to play their respective roles in this demanding task – only then the evil of child labour will get effectively curbed.


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