Child labour in India

Staggering number of children burdened because of poor governance

Society

June 12, 2018

/ By and / New Delhi

Child labour in India, In its 16th year, the focus of World day against child labour is ‘to improve safety and health of the children; but with a big group of them still working in hazardous conditions in India, and being robbed of education, it seems a long way to minimise and then eradicate child labour in india.

Worldwide, more than 200 million children are engaged in some or the other form of labour of whom at least 115 million are subject to its worst forms. India, the world’s fastest growing major economy, has the largest number of child labourers. At 10.1 million, the figures are staggering and with the age group being between five-fourteen years, the menace of child labour in India is even more alarming.

It is a common sight in India to see children selling inexpensive toys and other goods, books, food packets, water bottles, etc., at the road side or near traffic signals, ironically, when they are themselves deprived of all these materials.

Children are employed in factories to produce goods like matchsticks, tobacco, fireworks, etc., exposing them to hazardous environs that take a toll on their health. They are also hired as domestic help, despite the laws opposing any such employment.

The Child Labour in India Prohibition Act 1986 bans the employment of children below the age of 14 in many professions, such as aide at home or workplaces. Children can be seen catering to people at dhabas (roadside small restaurants), in small shops, motels, etc.

There is also a big group of children working in agriculture (half of the total population of child labour, as per a leading Indian government news agency) but Indian laws do not prohibit child labour in agriculture and so the farms and fields have small hands ploughing them.

The Indian constitution does prohibit employment of children below 14 years in “hazardous occupations”, but it is apparently overlooking the harm that can be caused by exposure to pesticides and bacteria while working in the field.

As per data from the 2011 Census, almost 73 pc of the working children in India from the age group of 5-18 years and do not go to school. Although the Right to Education Act 2009 ensures all children aged between six-fourteen years the right to free and compulsory education, the available data tells a different story. Lack of education is not going to help the situation, especially considering that it is one of the primary reasons forcing the children to work in the first place.

As per UNICEF India, the reasons that thrust children towards paid work are many ranging from lack of education to monetary problems, social reasons, etc., most of which can be avoided with proper legislative action.

Today, as we observe the World Day Against Child Labour in India, it is only in the hope of a better future and with the aim to implement this year’s agenda, ‘to improve safety and health of the children’.

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