Worldwide, lakhs of children are forced into unpaid or paid work depriving them of their basic right to enjoy childhood. As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the term “child labour” is defined as engaging children in such works that deprive them of their childhood, dignity, and future potential. There is no aota of doubt that child labour is harmful to the physical and mental development of a child.
When a child gets engaged in a type of work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful to children or interferes with their right to attend school, they are considered to be a victim of child labour. This is the worst form of labour as the child at a very young age has to work in dangerous and hazardous circumstances, away from their home and parents.
Working in hazardous circumstances is dangerous and unhealthy for the child as they could get injured or even be killed. It can even result in permanent disability and severe psychological issues.
Child labour can be found in various industries, some of which are Agriculture, Manufacturing, Mining and Quarrying, Domestic service, Hotels, Restaurants and Retail, etc. In worst cases, children also get trapped in child prostitution.
Child Labour in India
Lakhs of Indian children cannot attend the school as they are forced to work in quarries and factories or do some other odd jobs, like rolling bidies etc. They have to work for almost 16 hours a day just to meet up the needs of their families. Even some small children aged 5 years only have to work.
According to the ILO, a study by the ILO, majority of child labour almost 71% is engaged in the agriculture sector. Then comes the engagement of children in the service sector, almost 17% of the child labour is working as domestic help, working in restaurants, etc. Child labour is also very much seen even in the dangerous activities such as mining and quarrying, as almost 12% of the children are forced to work there.
Causes of Child Labour in India
In spite of economic developments in India, almost one third of the population still lives below the poverty line. There are several causes of child labour in India as in the past few years, lots of job opportunities were created, but most of them were related to the IT or service sector. People who could not afford such education could not enter into these jobs and their children also often ended up in child labour. Hence, we can say that poverty is one of the major cause of child labour in India.
Laws for Protection from Child Labour in India
The Indian Government is against any form of child labour and has enacted the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 to prohibit the engagement of children in all occupations and to prohibit the engagement of adolescents in hazardous occupations and processes. In 2006 and in 2016, the provisions were made more stringent and children under the age of 14 years were totally prohibited from working as domestic help, staff in restaurants, etc.
The Act also provides for penalty provisions for anybody who employs any child or permits any child to work or employs adolescents in hazardous occupation and processes shall be punishable with imprisonment of at least six months and upto two years or with a minimum fine of Rs. 20,000 but upto Rs. 50,000 or with both.
The Act specifically provides stringent punishments for those who were already convicted of the same offence, and again commits the offence afterwards, shall be punishable with imprisonment for atleast one year and upto three years.
Actions to be taken for stopping Child Labour in India
- Tighten up the existing Child Labour Laws: One of the most important task to be done by Indian government is to further tighten up the child labour laws. Stringent penalties should be imposed on the defaulter and compounding of such offence should not be entertained in any scenario. The executive should ensure that proper implementation of these laws are done. Also, various social groups should also come together and work on creating awareness about the evils of the child labour. They should make people conscious so that parents are not encouraged to send their children for child labour and the employer’s are also to be sensatized not to hire the small children in their establishments.
- Addressing Poverty: Apart from that it is also important to address the issue of poverty from the grassroot level to eliminate child labour. The government must issues policies for the advancement of poor and downtrodden people to end child labour in India.
- Access to Education: Another important action step is to provide access to education to all so that the vicious cycle of poverty and child labour can be broken. Literate parents will never push their child for labour and when a child completes its education, a lot of opportunities get opened for them. They are able to secure a decent job for them and end this circle of child labour.
- Right to Education: The government of India, through 86th Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 2002, made education free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 to 14 years by inserting Article 21A to the Constitution of India. The Article 21A provides that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
There are many inter-linked factors that influences the child labour. It is both a cause and consequence of poverty that creates a vicious circle. Poverty throws children into working in the hazardous industry for their survival. Both the government and the employer have to work actively and consciously in making stringent laws for child labour and following them religiously to eliminate this social evil from our society.