Break the chain of child labour

Er. Prabhat Kishore
Children are the future of a nation and are the mirror of its development. Their shriveled or blooming face reflects respectively country’s degradation or advancement. Since ancient times, taking care of them have been the sole responsibility of the society. In human life, childhood is the stage when they need love, affection, trust, responsibility, acceptability and safety. The people who have had a secure, respectful & reciprocal childhood, their personality and future are generally found to be balanced and they contribute to the well-being of the society. But, it is poignant that a large section of children have to spend their childhood in miserable conditions. The children who should contribute to the progress of the nation as engineers, doctors, scientists, officers, journalists, businessmen, or progressive farmers, unfortunately they are engaged as child labourer for their family’s livelihood.
A child is meant to learn and not to earn. Chronic Poverty, high population growth, lack of interest in education, migration, natural disaster, increasing landlessness, rising unemployment etc. are the underlying reasons behind child labour. These children come from such family who have no other means other than human work-force. India has not come out of poverty, Even after 73 years of independence. The economic as well as population policies of governments have failed and a large section of the masses are bereft of even basic amenities.
The problem of child labour has always been neglected at the national level. Although this problem has its presence in all ages. In ancient times, children engaged themselves in agriculture or other family occupations. After industrialization, the concept of child labour also transformed. The children became an independent entity and they have to join the workplace without protection of the guardian and have to handle their problems on their own.
Child labour has been gradually promoted by industrialists, factory owners, hoteliers, and landlord farmers , as children work for undefined hours without any hue & cry at minimal wages. The mentality of “More hand more work” of the working family has made the situation worse. Such children are deprived of inclusive social security in respect of education & all-round development and their whole childhood undergoes for earning wages. Instead of books or notebooks in their hands, they appear to have sickle, fade or other equipments.
The problem of child labour can be found in every corner of the world. India, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangla Desh are the most affected countries. Unicef report 2020 reveals that approximately 16 Crore children are engaged in child labour, half of whom belong to the Asian sub-continent. Globally, an additional 9 million children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic COVID 19.
Agriculture, forestry & fishing sectors account for 70% of children as child labour, followed by 20% in service and 10% in industry. Child labour in rural areas stands 14% as against 5% in urban areas. Child labour is more prevalent among boys, but when household chores are taken into account, the gender gap narrows.
Several industries in India are fully reliant on child labour. Kalin industry in Kashmir, Glass industry in Firozabad, Cracker & matchbox industry in Shivkashi (Tamilnadu), Slate industry in Mandsaur (MP), Leather industry in Kanpur & Agra, Diamond polish industry in Rajasthan & Gujarat, Lock industry of Aligarh, Hosiery, Bidi, fishery, etc. have their existence on the cheap wages of child labour. Most of the Dhabas and hotels in the country are flourishing due to 15-16 hour working of child labour.
Involvement of child labour in hazardous activities leads to numerous health and psychological problems such as chest & abdominal pain, skin infections, eye or ear problem, headache, physical tardiness, respiratory infections. Due to lack of proper guardianship & care, such children often exposed to theft, violence, criminal activities, physical & sexual abuse, drugs and other immoral activities.
The problem of child labour has been tackled through protective legislations both at the national and international level. The government has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 to prohibit the engagement of children in certain employments and to regulate the conditions of work in certain other employments. The Supreme Court in its judgement on 10th December 1996, declared child labour illegal. Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any hazardous industry or factory or mines. Article 39 has provides for protection of children against exploitation and moral & material abandonment. Article 45 in the constitution deals with the provision of free & compulsory education for children below 14 years and for this “Right to Free & Compulsory Education Act 2009” has been implemented in year 2010. The Factories Act 1948, The Plantation Labour Act 1951, Motor Transport Workers Act 1961, The Contract Labour Act 1970, and Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 have been promulgated.
The words “child” and “labour” together signify a disconcerting and negative narrative. But the prevailing socio-economic conditions donot permit to root out child labour overnight. A hungry person can not be expected to listen to valuable advice unless he fills his stomach first. In 1987, National Policy on Child Labour was framed for education, health, entertainment, and other development works for their well-being, but it needs to be reshaped and kept free from bureaucratic red-tapism.
Child labour has been a burning issue all over the world. It can not be eradicated without the joint collaboration of society, family and administration. Child Labour is a social crime as every child has the right to shine. In today’s scientific age, although we have reached the Moon and Mars, world has come closer due to globalization, and numerous works of development can be counted on finger; but the ground reality is that without rooting out child labour, no nation can become “Swasth, Sashakt & Samriddh Rashtra”.
(The author is a technocrat & academician. Views expressed in this article are personal.)

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