Introduction :

Children are always considered close to God. They are considered as bringer of happiness, joy and hope, no matter where they go. The future of the nation depends on the children as they are undoubtedly the stepping stone in shaping the future of any nation. If a nation treats its children properly and provides them with the basic facilities then it would get reflected in the future performance of the nation. The moral duty of the nation is to ensure that the childhood of every child is protected.

Concept and Defination :

Child labour is a global phenomenon, an act of holding minors in labour intensive activities, on temporary or permanent schedule, it is not restricted to only one country. “Child labour” is defined as the employment of children in any manual work. According to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, a “child” is a person who has not yet attained the age of 14 years. In this tender age where a child is expected to grow, enjoy his or her childhood to the fullest, seek education, gain a strong value system, he/she is forced to work and earn a living for himself/herself and his/her family. It not only affects his/her physical and mental development but it also puts a very heavy burden of responsibility on the child to support his/her family. It is frequently observed that the children are forced to become labour due to some hardships like lack of strong financial support, lack of proper food, clothing, shelter, livelihood etc.

International Labour Organisation [ILO] defines child labour as a work that not only affects their childhood but also doesn’t let the children attend the school regularly, or have a proper education. Child labour also deprives children of their dignity, potential and childhood. Children working below the age of 14 years are not able to develop mentally, socially, physically or morally.

A different definition of child labour is given by the United Nation’s Children’s Fund [UNICEF]. According to it, a child is considered as labour when:

His/her age is between 5 to 11 years, and at least 1 hour of economic activity is performed by him/her or he/she is doing at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week.

If the children are between 12 to 14 years of age then either they should be doing at least 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of domestic work per week to be considered as child labour.

According to India’s Census 2001, when a child below the age of 17 years participate in economic activity with or without compensation, either physically, or mentally, or both ways. Part-time help or unpaid work on farms, a family business or any other economic activity like cultivation and milk production for sale or domestic consumption will be included in child labour.

Classification Of Child Labour :

Child labour is classified into two groups in India:

Main workers: Main workers are those workers who work for at least some months or more per year, and

Marginal child workers: Marginal child workers are those workers who work for less than 6 months in a year and work at any time during the year.

Child labour in India :

India accounts for the second highest number where child labour in the world is concerned. Africa accounts for the highest number of children employed and exploited. The fact is that across the length and breadth of the nation, children are in a pathetic condition.

Child labour in India is a human right issue for the whole world. It is a serious and extensive problem, with many children under the age of fourteen working in carpet making factories, glass blowing units and making fireworks with bare little hands. According to the statistics given by Indian government there are 20 million Child labours in the country, while other agencies claim that it is 50 million.

The situation of Child labours in India is desperate. Children work for eight hours at a stretch with only a small break for meals. The meals are also frugal and the children are ill nourished. Most of the migrant children, who cannot go home, sleep at their work place, which is very bad for their health and development. Seventy five percent of Indian population still resides in rural areas and are very poor. Children in rural families who are ailing with poverty perceive their children as an income generating resource to supplement the family income. Parents sacrifice their children‟s education to the growing needs of their younger siblings in such families and view them as wage earners for the entire clan.

In Northern India the exploitation of little children for labour is an accepted practice and perceived by the local population as a necessity to alleviate poverty. Carpet weaving industries pay very low wages to Child labours and make them work for long hours in unhygienic conditions. Children working in such units are mainly migrant workers from Northern India, who are shunted here by their families to earn some money and send it to them. Their families dependence on their income, forces them to endure the onerous work conditions in the carpet factories.

While experts blame the system, poverty, illiteracy, adult unemployment; yet the fact is that the entire nation is responsible for every crime against a child. Instead of nipping the problem at the bud, child labour in India was allowed to increase with each passing year. And today, young ones below the age of 14 have become an important part of various industries; at the cost of their innocence, childhood, health and for that matter their lives.

Child labour issue :

Child labour is a major issue not only in India but in every developing country because it destroys a child’s physically as well as mentally. Because of poverty, child labour has become more prevalent, not only in India but globally. Children are the hope and future of a nation that is why it constitutes a social problem. Many laws have been enacted in order to prohibit child labour, however they haven’t been effective in curbing the problem.

Types of child labour in India :

There is an increasing involvement of children in home-based work and in the informal sector. Children are involved in the domestic, manual, agricultural sector, in hazardous factories, rag-picking, beedi-rolling, matchbox, brick kilns etc.

According to ILO, the worst types of child labour are:

Slavery: Slavery is when one person works for another person. Slaves don’t have the power to demand anything. They have to work according to the commands of their master.

Child Trafficking: Buying and selling of children either for labour or for sexual exploitation.

Debt Bondage: When people cannot pay off their loans with their money and belongings they are often forced to work as a labour.

Serfdom: When a person works on land that belongs to another person, it is known as serfdom. The labour will either be provided with some pay or no pay will be given.

Forced Labour: When a child works against his/her will then it is termed as forced labour.

Beggary: When poor parents don’t have any other way to earn a living they often beg on roads. They also cut their child’s body part in order to gain sympathy and to get more money. Small children are seen on red lights asking for money for their treatments.

Causes of child labour in India :

In India, the major causes of child labour are:

Poverty: Children are considered helping hands of their family. In developing countries, it is almost impossible to control child labour as children not only have to support themselves but their families also and provide them with a living. Due to poverty, the rate of unemployment and underemployment are also very high and so the parents have to send their children to work on low wages.

Previous debts: Due to their poor economic condition people take loans. But they don’t have sufficient money to pay back the loans so they not only work day and night to pay off the loans but they also drag their children to work so that the loan could be paid off before time and easily.

Professional needs: Some industries require delicate and soft hands rather than rough hands that are required in bangle industries. So they prefer children and not adults for such work.

Bonded labour: Children often work for long hours in the sun and they are deprived of water, food. These children are seldom paid. Bonded labour further adds to the large scale increase in child labour.

Domestic help: Small children often work for educated families and irrespective of several laws that violate the employment of children, they often welcome small children so that these children can take care of their homes as well as their children.

Child sex workers: Often, girls who attained the age of puberty are forced into prostitution in lieu of a promise that they would be given opportunities to do glamorous jobs.

Forced begging: Families who can’t support themselves force their children to beg on the roads in subhuman conditions. They get their children maimed in order to get more money from the people.

Condition Of Children Working As Child Labour :

Despite the fact that India has the biggest number of minor workers under the age 14 on the planet, the issue of minors working is not specific to India; around the world, in numerous nations youngsters are compelled to work with terrible outcomes. Kids, under the age of 14 are frequently compelled to work for more than 18 hours a day. They are liable to lack of healthy sustenance, hindered vision, disfigurements from sitting extend periods of time in confined over packed work places, and they get simple preys to fatal ailments like genuine respiratory illnesses, T.B., and Cancer. They are frequently compelled to lead single lives far from their families, denied of compelling training and chances to prepare that could equip them for a finer future. Minors providing labour not just prompt a never-ending cycle of economic backwardness for a family, it discourages the economy additionally. The colossal profits of nullification of minor labour investment can’t be measured in monetary terms alone, its enormous long haul gainful effect on the society overall far outweighs the ostensible financial hardship. Child labour is distinguished as a genuine and gigantically intricate social issue in India.

Consequences of child labour in India :

Child labour affects the economic welfare of a country to a great extent. Children who work are not able to get an education and they are not able to develop themselves physically, intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically. Children are neither equal to adults nor do they have the strength that the adults have and so they are not able to work for longer hours because they totally become exhausted and this reduces their physical strength which makes them more prone to diseases.

For India, child labour has long term adverse effects. The economy of a country will only prosper when the country will have an educated workforce, skills, technology and the younger generation will be a part of human capital in the future. If child labour at a huge extent continues then there will be a trade-off with human capital accumulation. 70% of child labour is employed in agriculture because it requires less skilled work whereas other children are employed in heavy industries.

Indian Constitution And Child Labour :

Article 2314 of Indian Constitution prohibits the trafficking in human beings and forced labour. And Article 2415 prohibits the employment of children in factories. It says that No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

The general understanding was that right secured by Article 24 will hardly be effective in the absence of legislation prohibiting and penalising its violation. However, Supreme Court clearly stated that Article 24 “must operate proprio vigour” even if the prohibition lay down in it is not “followed up by appropriate legislation.”16 In Labourers, Salal Hydro Project v. State of J&K17 it was again held that the employment of children below 14 in construction work violates Article 24.

It was noted in M C Mehta v. State of Tamilnadu,18 that menace of child labour was wide spread. Therefore it issued wide ranging directions in the context of employment and exploitation of children in Sivakasi, prohibiting employment of children below the age of 14 and making arrangement for their education by creating a fund and providing employment to the parents or the able bodied adults in the family. These directions were reiterated in Bandhu Mukti Morcha v. Union of India19, concerning the employment of children in carpet weaving industry in U.P.

The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.20 Also the State shall, direct its policy towards securing the given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment to the children.21

Article 4522 of Indian Constitution made provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years. As per this Article the State shall endeavours to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.

Steps Taken To Eliminate Child Labour In India :

Our Constitution provides special provisions for the protection of children. Some Articles are as follows – 15(3)31, 2132, 21-A33, 2334, 2435, 39 (e)36, 39 (f)37, 4338, 4539 and 51-A (k)40. In relation with the above mentioned Conventions and Constitutional provisions, we have enacted special laws to eliminate the child labour; some important ones are as follows.

1. The Children (Pleading of Labour) Act, 1933.

2. The Factories Act, 1948.

3. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

4. Plantation Labour Act, 1951.

5. The Mines Act, 1952.

6. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.

7. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961.

8. The Apprentices Act, 1961.

9. The Schools and Establishments Act, 1961.

10. The Beedi Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966.

11. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986.

Recognizing the increasing problem of child labour in India, the Parliament passed „The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986’. The purpose of this Act was to declare child labour as illegal and make it a punishable act by any citizen of India. The Act is to bring to the notice of the people of this nation that there are child labour laws to protect the child. However, in spite of this the situation has not improved, nor has it been brought under control.

The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in the year 1986. Under the provisions of this Act a National policy on child labour was formulated in the year 1987. The policy seeks to adopt a gradual and sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations and process in first instance. As poverty is the root cause of child labour, the action plan emphasizes the need to cover these children and their family under various poverty alleviation and employment generation schemes of the government.

Pursuant to this, in 1988, the NCLP scheme was launched in 9 districts of high child labour population in the country. The scheme envisaged special schools for the child labour withdrawn from work. The coverage of the NCLP scheme has increased from 12 districts in 1988 to 250 district in 10th plan. Some of the salient features of the plan strategy 200142 are focused and reinforced action to eliminate child labour in the hazardous occupation by the end of plan period.

One of the movements involved with children is Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which is one of the largest movements aimed at saving children from the clutches of traffickers, users of child labour, etc. They have rescued an estimated eighty two thousand children and rehabilitated them. Bachpan Bachao Andolan also played a big role in rallying support for the amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, called Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act, 2012. Their vision is to provide children with a child friendly environment and they are free from any kind of exploitation while receiving proper education. The strategies taken up are identification of the victims, rehabilitating them, providing them with assistance and prosecuting the culprits by taken legal recourse. They have held campaigns like Anti Firecracker Campaign to bring to light the inhuman conditions of the children working in the fire cracker industry. It then held the Fairplay Campaign to point out the conditions of the children working in sports goods manufacturing industries.

Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act was passed on 28 August 2012. This was an amendment to the already existent the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. This act bans all child labour below the age of 14 years in hazardous working environments, making it a criminal offence. The minimum age for employing a child has also been revised from 14 years to 18 years. This coupled with the Right to Education act will enhance the chances of children not working but devoting their childhood primarily to education thus bolstering their and the nation’s future.

How to stop child labour :

Child labour can be stopped through various measures. By analysing the situation, reviewing national laws regarding child labour. By taking protective measures like checking the age of the employees, identifying the hazardous works and carrying out a workplace risk assessment, child labour can be brought under control. Immediate actions are required by not hiring children below the age of 14 years, removing children from hazardous work or reducing the hours for children and providing them with at least minimum age can help in lowering the rate of child labour or making the position of these children in the society better.

Strategic actions like applying a safety and health management system, using collective bargaining agreements, providing a code of labour practices. By supporting education and children that are found trapped in child labour, this problem can be reduced. We should adapt our business to a child labour free environment and make sure that new suppliers don’t use child labour. If required, one or more monitoring systems should be set up.

Conclusion :

Children of the nation are supremely important asset. Children‟s programs should find a prominent part in our national plans for the development of human resources. So that our children grow up to become robust citizen, physically and mentally fit, and morally healthy; endowed with the skills and motivations needed by the society.

Child labour is a significant problem in India. The prevalence of it is shown by the child work participation rates which are higher in Indian than in other developing countries. Equal opportunities for development to all children during the period of growth should be our aim. For this purpose even we citizen should join hands with government and other institutions which are set up for this purpose.

Educating the child can be a solution for solving the problem of child labour. To provide compulsory primary education and in order to reduce the burden on parents to meet the expenditure for their children‟s education, while they are struggling for a day‟s meal, our Government had allotted funds. But due to the lack of awareness most of the poor families are not availing these facilities. So, proper steps have to be taken to create awareness.

Child labour cannot be eliminated by focusing on one determinant, for example education, or by brute enforcement of child labour laws. The government of India must ensure that the needs of the poor are filled before attacking child labour. If poverty is addressed, the need for child labour will automatically diminish. No matter how hard India tries, child labour always will exist until the need for it is removed.

The development of India as a nation is being hampered by child labour. Children are growing up illiterate because they have been working and not attending school. A cycle of poverty is formed and the need for child labour is reborn after every generation. India needs to address the situation by tackling the underlying causes of child labour through governmental policies and the enforcement of these policies. Only then will India succeed in the fight against child labour.

References :

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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