Child Labour: Immortal reality

A nine year old Gudiya’s homework was to beg and collect Rs.20 from Mehrauli- Badarpur crossing, clean and wash the dishes of Mrs. Sharma’s house and kneading the dough for the evening meal. Today she is no more. Like Gudiya 40 million children are exploited mostly not by choice but by circumstances. Around the world the eyes full of innocence is crying out for help but out of helplessness, society is unable to provide the required relief to these children. Child Labour is a dagger through India’s soul and it has become a burden on the Indian society.

Child labour is not a new phenomenon; it has been prevailing since Industrialization. During18th century children of aged between 5-10 years were used to be employed as child labourers in the factories. Nothing has changed; nowadays they are employed in even more hazardous conditions like fireworks, glass industries carpet making beedi making, brick kilns and leather units.

Children working as chotu in the dhabas and restaurants are often get ignored by our eyes, although we feel pity but move on with our daily routine work. Government statistics say that there are 2 crore child labourers in India, a country that has ambition of becoming a superpower in few years. However the Census of 2001 shows that there is an increase in the child labourers from 11.28 million in 1991 to 12.59 million in 2001.Whereas International Labour organisation has estimated that there 218 million children aged between 5-17 are engaged in child labour the world over. It is the outcome of the vicious circle of poverty, lack of social security, lack of universal education and unemployment. Globalisation has played a major role in the advancement of the issue as entry of MNCs into industry without any proper mechanisms to hold them accountable has led to the use of child labour.

According to the latest estimates of International Labour Organisation, Bonded and forced labour are widely prevalent in India showing that together there are 20 million of children aged between 5-17 years are engaged as child labours and there are 17.2 million children who are paid labour or unpaid domestic work in the home of a third party or the employer. It seems like that Bangladeshi children are more in demand as according to UNICEF report we have children of aged between 5-17 years are 3.2 million.

Though June 12 is celebrated as the World Day against Child Labour but the reality presents a contradictory picture, according to International Labour Organization and other government agencies, more than 73 million children aged between 10-14 years are the victims of this heinous crime. Asian countries occupies distinctive place with 44.6 million child labour followed by Africa with 23.6 million and Latin America with 5.1 million. Child labour is shaming around the world and it poses a serious question over the nature of the mentality of the society.

Due to poverty many families believed that many hands make light work. According to 7th All India Education Survey at present there are 17 million children labourers in India. A study found that children were sent to work by compulsion and not by choice mostly by parents, but with recruiter playing a crucial role in influencing the decision. UNICEF report shows that the school dropout scenario in India is ‘extremely high’ as over 80 million children are not completing the full cycle of elementary education while 8 million are out of school over a period of years.

We have child Labour Laws like child labour (prohibition and regulation) Act 1986 according to which the act prohibits the employment of  children below the age of 14 years  in hazardous occupation identified in a list by the law. But according to the recent report by the international Confederation of free trade Unions say there are nearly 85%are engaged in traditional agricultural activities, less than 9% work in manufacturing, services, repairs and about 8% works in factories in hazardous conditions and UNICEF official estimates shows that 85% of child labourers in India are working in Hazardous conditions..

Besides this we have Integrated Child Development Service, Right to Education Bill, Rehabilitation of Children working in Hazardous Occupation, there is the establishment of National Authority for the elimination of child Labour, National Child Labour Project and International Program on the elimination of child labour.

The NGOs have asserted that an estimation of 14 percent of children in India between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in child labor activities, including carpet production. Some children are forced to work up to 18 hours a day, often never leaving the confines of the factory or loom shed.

Our fundamental right guarantees freedom and equality. Also the aim of a particular state is to abolish poverty by assuring full employment and minimum wages and a concerted effort should be made to raise the standard of living of the masses bit the numbers tells us that this dream of living in a Utopian world is far from us but with concerted efforts of all the people we can uproot the problem. Noble Laureate Kailash Stayarthi whose NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan was able to rescue 83,000 children from the shackles of child labour.

But question remains the same are we making efforts to erase the numbers or to alter the prevailing mindset?


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