CHILD LABOUR: AN UNAVOIDABLE DILEMMA
Authored by: Anuja Saklani
The present paper is an attempt to analyze what is child labour, what are the problems faced by the children involved in the evil practice of child labour. The study took various factors like reasons of increase in child labour, role of the government in fighting against child labour, role of NGOs and foolproof laws for eradication of child labour. The study reveals how child labour is increasing in the country. How, it is deeply rooted in the society. On, one hand we say that India is progressing and on the other hand evil practices like “child labour” is still being practiced in so many areas of our country. Definitely India is developing and progressing, but until and unless we the people of our country stand together against such practices, to curb such practices; India will not be a developed and an advanced country because a nation’s progress is possible only if the children of the nation are free from such clutches and as we say “Child is meant to learn and not to earn”. The study concludes by the suggestion that in order to ban child labour and to curb such practices, awareness should be created among the people, access to free education and empowering the poor section of the society through knowledge and income generating projects.
As rightly said by Ms. Shanta Sinha, Chairperson of Children’s Rights Commission, India “child labour exists because we allow it to exist”.
So here are few definitions of child labour given by different online sources.
The Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as anyone below the age of 18.
ILO defines child labour as “Work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”.
According to Wikipedia, “child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful”.
UNICEF defines “child labour as work that exceeds a minimum number of hours, depending on the age of a child and on the type of work. Such work is considered harmful to the child and should there be eliminated:
- Ages 5-11: At least one hour of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work per week.
- Ages 12-14: At least 14 hours of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work per week.
- Ages 15-17: At least 43 hours of economic or domestic work per week.”
According to UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “child labour is any work done by a child that may be harmful to their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development”.
Definitely child labour is a blot on our society and speaks volumes about the inability of our society to provide for a congenial environment for the growth and development of the children.
As said by Kailash Satyarthi “Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains, but I will see the end of child labour in my lifetime.”
REASONS FOR THE INCREASE OF CHILD LABOUR
A number of reasons could be attributed to the rise of this menace.
This is one of the biggest factors contributing to child labour. Children are employed in bidi rolling, cracker industry, pencil, matchbox and bangle making industries. Working in such industries takes a great toll of their life. They are susceptible to
different types of respiratory problems , threat to their lives and lung cancer, in the worst cases. In the poor and lower strata families, children are considered to be an extra earning hand. The families have a mindset that more the number of children, more will be the earning hands in the family. The children are expected to shoulder their parents’ responsibilities.
- PARENTAL ILLITERACY
Illiteracy is also one of the contributors to this problem. Illiterate parents don’t understand the importance of, going to school and getting educated. Education tends to take a backseat in the lives of these children. The uneducated parents consider education as a privilege which is only for the upper section of the society. Illiterate parents think and prioritize that making their children earn for them is more important as compared to providing education to them, for their strong future base.
- DEMAND OF UNSKILLED LABOURERS
Huge demand of unskilled labourers leads to child labour. As children are mostly unskilled they are a cheap source of labour. Employers also prefer child labourers in comparison to adults. This, is because they can extract more work and still afford to pay the children lesser amount.
- EXPENSIVE EDUCATION
Education is expensive, and those families and people who are below the poverty line and who live in abject poverty, for them to afford education is very difficult. They are deprived of the basic amenities like food, cloth and shelter. For them, it is a difficult task to afford for quality education and provide it to their children. Therefore, the easy part that comes in front of them is to make their children work as unskilled labourers to support their families.
- LOW ASPIRATIONS
Having low aspirations will not be fruitful. Parents and children need to understand that in order to be a big personality or a successful person in life; you need to aspire for big things. Selling items on the streets and being employed in a factory or a mine is the way of life that these people live. They don’t aspire to become professionals in the field of business or in the society.
CHILD LABOUR ON GROUND LEVEL
- According to the most recent report from the ILO,
“A total of 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys – are in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in ten of all children worldwide. Nearly half of all those in child labour – 73 million children in absolute terms – are in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety, and moral development.”
- As UNICEF states: “Although aggregate numbers suggest that more boys than girls are involved in child labour, it is estimated that roughly 90 percent of children involved in domestic labour are girls”.
- As per UNICEF data, “An estimated 150 million children are involved in child labour worldwide”.
- According to the ILO, 70.9 percent of child labourers work in agriculture. Other industries that frequently rely on child labour include manufacturing, mining, quarrying, construction, domestic service and general service such as in retail, restaurants and hotels.
- According to a Livemint report, “The government last year amended child labour laws to allow children below 14 to work in family businesses and the entertainment industry (excluding circuses) in order to create “a balance between the need for education for a child and reality of the socio-economic condition and social fabric of the country”.
- According to statistics by Action Aid India, “1 in every 11 children in India works to earn a living”.
- As per data given out by Save the Children NGO, “There are five states which are the India’s biggest child labour employers- Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. . National capital Delhi is responsible for a share of 1 million child labour alone”.
- A recent analysis by CRY of census data , “In the country shows that the overall decrease in child labour is only 2.2 per cent year on year, over the last 10 years. Also, it has revealed that child labour has grown by more than 50 per cent in urban areas”.
- As per Census 2011 data, “There are 33 million child labourers between the ages of 5-18 years in India and 10.13 million between the ages of 5-14 years”.
- As per HAQ: Center for Child Rights data, “child labour is highest among Backward Classes such as OBCs, Muslims, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”.
ROLE OF NGOs
NGOs can provide vocational training to people in order to get them good jobs or to make them self -employed. The government, in collaboration with NGOs, should reach out to the poor people to make them understand the importance of education. They should be made aware of the government’s initiative to provide free education to all the children between the age group of 6-14 years. The parents must be encouraged to send their children to the schools instead of work places. To prohibit the child labour in India Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi took an initiative. He is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an organization dedicated towards the eradication of child labour and rehabilitation of the rescued former child workers.
The former President Pranab Mukherjee launched a “100 million for 100 million” campaign, that was conceptualized by Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, to end child labour, child slavery, violence against children etc.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
The government has an important role to play in this fight against child labour. As poverty is one of the major causes of child labour in India, the government needs to assure that it provides for the basic amenities to all its citizens and there is an equal distribution of wealth. The government needs to generate sufficient jobs to assure employability to the poor.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT TO CURB CHILD LABOUR
- The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
- The Factories Act, 1948.
- The Mines Act, 1952.
- The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
- The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
- The National Policy on child labour, 1987.
- Article 39 of the Constitution.
- In July 2016, the Parliament has passed the child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill.
As rightly said by Michael Moore, “You can’t regulate child labor. You can’t regulate slavery. Some things are just wrong.”
There are several steps taken by the government with regard to child labour. But still it is not wholly eradicated from the society. It is still prevalent in many areas of the country. We need to work on its effective implementation process. Rules are there, policies are there, laws are there but the problem is, the way it should be implemented, the process; that is not rigid. If child labour is to be eradicated from India, the government and those responsible for the enforcement need to do their jobs sincerely. It should be the collective responsibility of the society and the government to provide children with a healthy and conducive environment which will help them to develop their innate capabilities and use their skills effectively. As it is rightly said that “Don’t ask children to take tool instead send them to school”. Success can be achieved only through social engineering on a major scale combined with broad based economic growth.
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
REFERENCES AND CITATIONS
11. Ms. Shanta Sinha points out that, “child labour exists because we allow it to exist”. (Page No.3)
12. Kailash Satyarthi points out that, “Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains, but I will see the end of child labour in my lifetime.”(Page No. 3)
13. Michael Moore points out that, “You can’t regulate child labor. You can’t regulate slavery. Some things are just wrong.” (Page No.9)