Education for all, concerted efforts to reduce poverty, enhancement of social protection and political commitment have been identified as the measures to tackle child labour.
On the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour on Saturday, agencies including the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), ILO, UNICEF, UNESCO and the corporate sector hailed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) as the foundation to ensure that all children are in school and out of child labour.
Education for all was unanimously agreed as a target towards reaching the goal of elimination of child labour.
“We welcome the enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act that guarantees education as a fundamental right to each and every child. This ground-breaking Act provides the foundational building blocks to ensure that all children are in school and out of labour,” said NCPCR chairperson Shantha Sinha during the event.
It was pointed out that there are currently an estimated 8.1 million children and young people out-of-school in India, who are at risk of not only being used as child labour, but also vulnerable to trafficking, child marriage and other abuses.
“Child labour is a blot on our society and each one of us should fight against this inhuman practice, widely prevalent in homes and at workplaces,” said Anu Aga former chairperson of Thermax. “I urge employers of small and large enterprises, and our citizens, to resolve not to employ children and not to encourage child labour, directly or indirectly. I condemn the perpetuation of this unjust tradition that instead of nurturing and investing in our children consigns them to lives of despair and degradation.”
Speakers expressed concern over the vulnerability of girls and children from the backwards areas. It was put forth that girls are still less likely to enrol in school than boys, with even higher gender gaps for girls from Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC).
India's Mid-Decade Assessment of Education For All highlights the fact that close to half of children left school before reaching Grade 8 with higher drop-out rates for SC children (55 out of 100) and the highest for ST children (63 out of 100).
“It is now imperative to identify and remove all financial obstacles to guarantee at least eight years of quality, equitable education and give families the support they urgently need so parents don't need to send their children out to work but to school,” said Kevin St Louis, acting Representative for UNICEF India.
Under RTE, education is a free entitlement for all children. Solutions must be found to end the cycle of poverty so that disadvantaged families don't have to rely on their children's earnings to survive.
“The International Labour Organization (ILO) is committed to supporting our tripartite constituents i.e. government, employers' and workers' organizations in their efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour here in India and throughout the world by 2016,” said André Bogui, Acting Director for ILO's Sub-Regional Office for South Asia.
“RTE is a powerful tool to make sure that children are not working and in school where they belong. Decent work for adults is also essential to the overarching goal of the elimination of all child labour,” he said.