The ban on the employment of children as domestic workers and as workers in restaurants and resorts (editorial "A ban that was overdue," Aug. 7) is welcome. It will, however, become meaningful only if the Government creates more employment opportunities for those who live below the poverty line, because it is their children who constitute the maximum percentage of school dropouts.
* * *
A mere ban on paper will not help. The Government should come out with a comprehensive policy to rehabilitate these children. Instead of sending them to formal schools, the Government can think of establishing informal schools with hostel facility and train them in a vocation.
* * *
To make the ban effective, it is necessary to provide a bread-winning job to at least one adult in the family of the child labourers. A complaint cell with a toll free number should be constituted, where child labour cases can be reported. The Government should cut off electricity and water connection to the houses, restaurants, and other establishments that employ children.
* * *
Even after primary education has been made a fundamental right under the Constitution, there has been no change on the ground as far as elementary schooling is concerned. There is blatant lack of political will in the implementation of laws that protect children's rights. The Government should concentrate on this aspect instead of passing new legislation in Parliament.
* * *
A majority of our people toil all day long to eat two meals a day. They are so underpaid that they are forced to send their dependents as cheap labour to supplement their family income. Before taking a hasty decision to ban child labour, the Government should ensure that the poor are not exploited and are economically secure enough to send their children to schools rather than to sweatshops.
* * *
Is the Government prepared to deal with the consequences of the ban that is sure to leave many children without a job? Otherwise, the move may end up forcing child labour underground, making it more hazardous.
* * *
The Government's approach seems to be casual. Children go to work to support the family when parents are ill, underpaid or dead. A ban may render lakhs of children jobless, pushing their families to starvation. For lack of alternatives, the children may take to theft, prostitution, and drug peddling. The Government should first compile statistics on child labourers in the proposed area of ban. Programmes for rehabilitation should be chalked out and the other development schemes should be explored for accommodating the children.
* * *
Ironically, child labour is a necessary evil in poor countries such as India. In the socio-economic context, some consider it righteous to give a job to a child. However, allowing children from poor families to undergo physical, cognitive, emotional and moral hazards because they must help their families is injustice. The best solution is to provide compulsory primary education. By forcing children to go to school, they can be kept out of factories and workshops. Since child labourers are employed in the unorganised sector, it is impossible to monitor them to ensure that part-time labour is part-time. Enforcement of law is the key aspect that is lacking in the Government's efforts.
* * *
Initiatives need to be undertaken on a war footing to send children hitherto denied education to school. Road shows can be organised to educate children and their parents on the long-term benefits of basic education. Incentives can be given to organisations and individuals willing to set up and run the required number of schools. A robust mechanism should be created to monitor the attendance in and the progress of these schools.