Problem of Child Labour
© video content prepared by Prachi Singh
Children are the future of world and it is our responsibility that we should treat them well as well as provide them the best quality education, food and living atmosphere while they are growing up. However, today world is plagued with the malaise of child labour. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are 168 million children worldwide in child labour, accounting for almost 11 per cent of world´s children population. As stated by ILO, “child labour” can be defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. According to UNICEF, a child is involved in child labour if he or she is between five and eleven years, does at least one hour of economic activity, or at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week. And in case of children aged between 12 and 14, 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work per week is considered child labour. Owing to the higher rate of illiteracy and poverty, Sub-Saharan Africa contributes the highest percentage of child labour with one in five children working as child labour, but the largest complete number comes from Asia and the Pacific region.
Child Labour Distribution
As most of the Sub-Saharan African countries and Asian countries are agriculture oriented economy, that is why more than 50 percent of child labour are concentrated in the agriculture sector. The agriculture sector comprises the activities in harvesting, agriculture, forestry and fishing. One third of child labour comes from the service sector including domestic work.
Status of Children in India
According to the census data 2011 released by Government of India, the children population is almost 472 million out of 1.21 billion people in India, consisting of about 39 per cent of total population. The Constitution of India provide the right of children to free and compulsory education from the age of five to fourteen under Article 21 -A. Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 in factories, mines, and other hazardous employment. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 provides penalty for employing a child with imprisonment between six months and two years or a fine of INR 20,000 to INR 50,000. Despite these stringent laws, rules and regulations, there are almost 4.353 million children working as child labor, which is nearly 1 percent of total children population.
Child Labour Problem in India
While responding to a question in Parliament related to child labour, Union Minister stated that highest number of child labour is reported from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra and Bihar. Child labour in India is an outcome of various socio-economic problems such as illiteracy, poverty, large population and lack of awareness. Most of the child labour is sector specific with poor families trapped in intergenerational debt bondage.
What Government is doing to tackle it?
Government is trying to address the problem using a multi-pronged strategy for elimination of child labour. It comprises of statutory and legislative measures, rehabilitation and universal elementary education along with convergence with other schemes for socio economic development. In contrast to, the claim made by government about tackling child labour issue, one can easily find that there is world of difference between precept and practice. As they have reduced the number of hazardous factories list from 83 to just mining, explosives and occupation mentioned in Factory Act in new amendments to the Child Labour Act. Thus, Government has opened a backdoor entrance for encouraging child labour employed in other hazardous factories.
Additionally, government also introduced a new clause, where children under the age of fourteen can work in the family run business after the school hours, not mentioning the number of hours per week, despite being a signatory of UNICEF. In UNICEF accord, the law has to clearly state the number of working hours by the children. Reacting to this new clause, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan has said that “The Union Cabinet of the Government of India has given its approval for moving statutory amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. While there are some important provisions outlined in the proposed Bill, there are some lacunae that left unaddressed leave scope for defeating the entire purpose of the Bill.” As in last five years, Bachpan Bachao Andolan rescued more than five thousand children, among them one fifth worked in family run trade.
What is our responsibility toward this problem?
This year on May Day, when we celebrate International Labour Day, we Indian should ponder on how we can play an active role in eradicating child labour from our society. We should not allow a child help in our house and encourage the poor people to send their children to schools. This problem should be solved by the society as a unit and we should not only depend on the government for the same. We should raise our voices wherever we see a child working at tea stall, begging or in any other industry. We all should take a pledge that the youth of this country will never encourage the child labour.
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