Everyone will agree that the Government's ban on the employment of children as domestic servants and in eateries and recreational centres is overdue. We hope that for the staggering 13 million children, it will be the beginning of a new dawn. Realising the objective of universal primary education will be a challenge though. The Government alone cannot achieve it. Let all of us fund the needs of these children with, say, small salary cuts, and sensitise everyone around us to ensure that we no longer have children toiling in sweatshops.
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There is no known mechanism to determine the number of children employed as domestic help. It is in this sector that children are harassed and abused more than anywhere else. Wide publicity should be given to the law and the consequences of violating it in the media. The people should be requested to report instances of employment of child labour. The consumer industry can help by carrying the message on all packaged items.
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Economics forces children to work. They have no choice. By banning them from working, the Government may force them to take to crime and begging. We should not turn a blind eye to the reality. We have so many laws. Have they all been enforced fully? With our inadequate police force, the law banning child labour will probably sleep in the records of the Government.
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All we require to tackle child labour is courage to implement the existing laws effectively. If our elected representatives are serious about doing away with the evil, we can see a great change. But do they have the commitment to change the conditions?
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Many child labourers are breadwinners of their families. If they are deprived of their jobs, they will have to starve along with their families. Is it possible for the Government to look after their families and also meet their educational expenses? The Government should think of generating and encouraging part-time jobs for children, suited to their age.
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Will primary education make a great difference to the lives of child labourers? Even graduates are on the roads without jobs. The Government should give the children and their families the option to decide their future. They should identify children like Budhia Singh and help them to realise their potential. Education should be secondary for them.
V. Shivaji Kumar,