Child Labour 

Child Labour 

Child labourers have to toil long hours to eke out a living for themselves and support their families. Exploitation becomes a way of life for them and becomes very harmful to their physical and mental development. They are forced to inhabit an adult world, shoulder adult responsibilities, and suffer extreme exploitation.

Despite legislation banning child labour, it has not been possible to completely stop the practice of hiring children as labour across the world. India is no exception to employment of children as labour; rather the country employs the largest number of child labourers in the world.

Causes of Child Labour: Poverty, social inequality and lack of education are among is the main cause of child labour. According to a UNICEF report, in rural and impoverished parts of the world, children have no real and meaningful alternative as schools and teachers are not available. Many communities, particularly rural areas do not have adequate school facilities, even the availability and quality of schools is very low.

Also, the low paying informal economy thrives upon the low cost, easy to hire, easy to dismiss labour in the form of child labour. After the unorganized agriculture sector which employs 60% of child labour, children are employed in unorganized trade, unorganized assembly and unorganized retail work. Other contributory factors to child labour include inflexibility and structure of India’s labour market, size of informal economy, inability of industries to scale up and lack of modern manufacturing technologies.

Despite constitutional provisions against child labour, a large number of children continue to be exploited under hazardous work conditions. Poorly paid for long hours of work, they have to abandon their studies to support their family at an age when they are supposed to just play around and have fun. They are made to forego all the joys of childhood by a cruel and ruthless world.

Widespread prevalence of child labour: Rural areas employ the largest number of child labour. In urban areas, they work in dhabas, tea-stalls and restaurants, and households. They are shamelessly exploited in the unorganized sector as domestic servants, hawkers, rag-pickers, paper vendors, agricultural labourers, and as workers in industrial concerns.

Some of the industries that employ children as labourers include match industry in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu; glass industry in Firozabad, brassware industry in Moradabad and the handmade carpet industry in Mirzapur-Bhadoi, precious stone polishing industry in Jaipur, Rajasthan; lock making industry in Aligarh; slate industry in Markapur, Andhra Pradesh, and slate industry in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh.

Bonded child labour in India: Under this system, the child, or usually child’s parent enter into an agreement, wherein the child performs work as in-kind repayment of credit. Though India passed the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 prohibiting solicitation or use of bonded labour including children, the practice of bonded child labour has not ceased.

Consequences of Child Labour: Child labour inflicts damage to a child’s physical and mental health. A child labourer has no basic rights to education, development, and freedom. Children employed as labourers work in unsafe environments where there is a constant danger of fatal accidents. They are forced to lead a life of poverty, illiteracy, and deprivation. They are required to perform gruelling and physically demanding tasks and in return receive only meagre wages. Poor working conditions cause severe health problems to such children. A child labourer not just suffers physical and mental torture but also becomes mentally and emotionally mature too fast which is never a good sign.

Various laws but no implementation: Apart from the enactment of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, the Indian Constitution has incorporated various provisions against child labour such as the following:

  • According to Article 24, no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or in any hazardous employment (but not in non-hazardous industries).
  • As per Article 39(f)), childhood and youth are to be protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
  • Article 45 stipulates that the state shall endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.

The Factories Act of 1948 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The Mines Act of 1952 prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine. Also, various laws and the Indian Penal Code, such as the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act-2000, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act-1986 seek to prevent the practice of child labour in India. Unfortunately, these laws and regulations have not been backed by effective and proper implementation and enforcement.

Conclusion: Collective efforts are needed on the part of society and the government to put an end to the practice of child labour. In fact, every citizen should take a pledge to never employ child labourer, rather discourage others too from doing so. We should create awareness amongst people employing child labourers and the parents sending their children to work. We need to provide our children a happy childhood where they are able to enjoy the best period of their lives with a merry and carefree attitude.

The government should make efforts to increase the incomes of parents by launching various development schemes. Efforts should be made towards poverty eradication combined with educational reforms to provide free or affordable access to quality education. Only by taking comprehensive steps, the Government can hope to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2020.

Author : Soniya Ajay Talreja, a Student of Indore Institute of law BALLB 2nd semester Affiliated to DAVV University 

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