Child labour: an unresolved issue


The livelihood of a child is determined by the socio-economic conditions of the family

India has the largest number of child labourers in the world. Since 1933, various laws have been enacted but the issue exists continuously on larger grounds. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, nearly 16.4 million Indian children aged 5-14 are engaged in various works while the World Bank puts that figure at 44 million. The Ministry of Labour issued a notification on October 10, 2006, for banning child labour and warns those who choose child labour of imprisonment. But, at present, there is no wider change in the child labour scenario.

The livelihood of a child is determined by the socio-economic conditions of the family. A child in a rich family enjoys all privileges, whereas a child born in poor family suffers, indeed, even to enjoy the childhood. Mostly, the child labourers are employed in small-scale industries and for domestic purposes. The employers adopt children merely because they can be paid less when compared to adult labourers.

Child labourers are treated as slaves and not even as labourers. Most of the studies report that these labourers are in the age group of 8 to 11 and they are made to work 12 hours a day and meagre wages are paid to them. By considering the poverty-stricken families, the Government affords education, noon meals, uniform, notebook, transport, footwear and health care free of cost. But still, we are unable to change society’s attitude regarding child labour.

Legislative measures

The first Act in India relating child labour was the Enactment of Children (Pledging of Labour) Act of February 1933. This was followed by the Employment of Children Act, in 1938. Since then, there have been 12 different pieces of legislation on child labour. Furthermore, India is also a signatory to the ILO to protect the right of the child from economic exploitation. In spite of all these measures, the children are working in hotels, liquor outlets, fireworks, small-scale industries, agricultural farms, etc. This clearly shows that parents and employers have no fear and awareness about the child labour laws. Only a few social organisations are crying against child labour, and many times, our bureaucrats in government have turned a deaf ear to all these cries.

In order to eradicate child labour, the developed nations have suggested banning the sale of all products made by children, but developing countries like India have cautioned against the universal banning of child labour and argued that such bans will hurt poor families and their income. But in no way can child labour be an alternative to overcome poverty; instead child labour might lead poverty to prolong for generations to come. To resolve the issue, the government can implement compulsory education.

Role of CLRF

It has to create a separate Child Labour Rescue Force (CLRF) at the district level. At first, there should be coordination between CLRF and government schools. In the next stage, with the help of teachers, the CLRF should collect details of dropouts, who are aged below fourteen. If required, the government can give loans to those poor families, and this will discharge them from the vicious circle of penury.

Parents who have been engaging their children in work have to be warned and advised by the CLRF to get them admitted to schools without delay. After doing so, the children, who are rescued from workspots, have to be monitored regularly through school attendance. The details of students taking long leave should be sent immediately to the CLRF, which has to conduct frequent raids on industries and informal places.

Parents and those who adopt child labour have to be severely punished, and the places, where children work, have to be seized. If this approach is brought into effect, the problem of child labour can be eliminated.

At last, everyone should understand that “Children are the treasures for future and they are not born to work; they are born to learn, play and enjoy their childhood.”

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