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Author, Naveen Souda, Advocate, M.A ., LLM.
Child Labour has been defined as that group of children who were working and are below fourteen years of age. The hazardous process and occupations have been identified in the schedule to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. Child Labour hampers the normal, physical, intellectual, emotional and moral development of a child.
According to the new statistics, the number of child labourers fell by 11 percent from 2000 to 2004 to 218 million. The report cited several significant trends in this reduction, among them substantial declines in child labour among younger children below age 15 and in hazardous labour for all children up to age 18. The most striking change, however, was the large drop in the number of working children in Latin America and the Caribbean region to less than half of the level in 2000.
Millions of children in India toil as virtual slaves, unable to escape the work that will leave them impoverished, illiterate, and often crippled by the time they reach adulthood. These are India’s bonded child labours. A majority of them are Dalits bound to their employers in exchange for a loan they are unable to leave while in debt and earn so little they may never be free of it. The government of India has made many laws to prevent the child labour but all goes vain.
Types of Child labour
- Domestic work
- Non-Domestic and non-monetary work
- Bonded labour
- Wage labour
Bonded child labour is one of the worst forms labour not only for children but also for adults. In India, bonded labour has been illegal since 1976 when Parliament enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act.
However, the practice is still widespread. Most of the work carried out by bonded labourer is hard manual labour in the fields or brick-kilns. The agriculture sector in India about 80% of child labourers are employed in agriculture and allied occupations. Child labour often assumes serious proportion in commercial agriculture that is associated with global markets for cocoa, coffee, cotton, rubber, sisal, tea etc., Manufacturing most hazardous form of child labour in the manufacturing sector of India includes glass industry, matching factories, carpet industry and lock industry.
City street work
There are thousands of children who live and work in the city street of India. The majority of street children are doing rag picking for their living. Thus, in India children do all kinds of activity. There is no product that has not been scented by the sweat of a child’s labour.
Causes of child labour
There are many socio-economic factors, responsible for the increase of child labour in India.
Poverty is undoubtedly a dominant factor. Families below the poverty line force their children into work to supplement their household’s meager income. Though, children are not well paid, they still serve as major contributors to family income.
Schooling problems also contribute to child labour. Many a times children seek employment simply because there is no access to schools. A major reason that India has the largest child work force is that millions children are not in school.Big families
In most of the rural areas in India there are large families with limited options of income. These big families promote child labour for their livelihood.
Cheap and safe child labour
Due to industrialization and modern scientific technology, the tendency among the employers is to have quicker and greater profits at low costs. Children are paid very low wages and subject excessive hours of work.
- Low profitability and productivity of small scale family enterprises that cannot afford adult paid labour and lack of law enforcement.
- Economic and political instability.
- Discrimination and migration.
- Traditional cultural practices
- Increasing landlessness that has lead to dependence on wage and contractual employment.
- Inadequate social protection.
- Children are trouble free and cannot organize agitation.
- Child labour is, thus, is an outcome of economic and social related factors.
- Child Labour-Government Policy
Article 39(e) directs State Policy such “that the health and strength of workers and tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocation unsuited to their age or strength”. Constitution of India, Cited in Human Rights Watch 1996, 29. These two articles show that India has always had the goal of taking care of its children and ensuring the safety of workers. The government realizes that mere legislation will not be sufficient. It adopted the National Policy for Children (NPC) in August 1974.
The policy stated “it shall be policy of the state to provide adequate service to children both before and after birth and throughout the period of their growth, to ensure their fully physical, mental and social development”. Constitution of India, cited in Human Rights Watch 1996.
In 1975, a National Children’s Board was established to create greater awareness and promote the welfare of the children, including working children. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 fulfils the Indian Constitution’s directive of ending forced labour. Regarding the child labour, the Indian Government implemented the child labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act of 1986.
The purpose of this Act is to prohibit the employment of children who have not completed their 14th year, in specified hazardous occupations and processes. In 1994 Former Prime Minister Late Sri. P.V.Narsimha Rao announced his proposal, often ‘Elimination of Child Labour Programme’. This programme pledges to end child labour for two million children in hazardous industries.
All the policies that the Indian government has in place or in accordance with the Constitution of India and all support the eradication of child labour. But the problem of child labour still remains, even though all these policies are existent. Enforcement is the key aspect that is lacking in the government’s effort.
India has accepted the convention on the rights of child concluded by the U.N. General Assembly on November 20, 1989. The International Labour Organisation ILO has been playing an important role in the process of gradual elimination and to protect the child from industrial exploitation. It has focused on five main issues-prohibiting child labour, protecting child labour at work, attacking the basic causes of child labour, helping children to adopt to future work, and protecting their interests.
Child Labour Eradication-A Mass Movement
The initiative and support for the eradication of child labour in India, through the government sector, non-government sector, judiciary, social workers, and public at large has raised hopes for creating mass movement against the menace of child labour and provide universal compulsory education for children.
The Government is determined to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2020. Indeed, poverty eradication combined with educational reforms to provide free or affordable access to quality education with an interesting, innovative and job oriented curriculum for all can effectively eliminate child labour once and for all.