Child labour in India can only be eliminated through collective action, political will, resource mobilisation and a sense of sympathy for the children deprived of their childhood
Recently, the incident of sexual misconduct with a minor maid in a posh colony in Delhi exposed the current child labour laws. According to the police, the 12-year-old girl came from a region of Jharkhand where mobile facility was not available. Hence, her parents could not be contacted. Police believe that due to financial constraints, the parents of the girl sent her with a non-registered placement agency that brought her to Delhi and handed her over to a human trafficker. Such incidences of keeping small children as servants and sexually abusing them are quite common in cities like Delhi. And because such incidents do not come to light often, human traffickers tend to take advantage of it.
Child labour, child abuse and child trade in India remains a big problem. Economic stagnation and hunger work like a magical potion for child traffickers. This is the major reason why the highest number of children trafficked are from states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. It is a horrendous fact that the poor and backward classes of these states are literally struggling for each and every morsel of food. The direct impact of not getting work, getting less money for work or not getting their wages on time falls on their children and their future.
Due to a lack of wages in the remote areas of Biha , Jharkhand and in Naxal affected areas, a large number of workers continuously migrate to big metropolises like Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai and commercial and industrial cities like Agra, Jaipur, Punjab, lucknow, Kanpur, Moradabad, Faridabad, Bareilly and Surat. These include a large number of child labourers who are employed as bonded labourers in factories that manufacture bangles, utensils, clothes, leathers and chemicals.
According to the estimates of the International labor Organization, there are 218 million child labourers in the world. And according to the official website of the Central Government's labour Ministry, 1.26 crore children working in the age group of 5-14 years are presently working in India compared to the total 25.2 million world population. Nearly 12 lakh of these children are working in hazardous occupations and industries, an act that is prohibited under the Child labour Act.
In urban areas, there are a number of children who work in canteens or in rag-picking or in selling goods on the roadside. There are no official numbers in this regard. The more unlucky children are those who are employed in risky ventures such as polluted factories, which have soot on the walls and where the air is toxic. These children are employed in units of glass-blast where their lungs are stressed due to diseases like tuberculosis. But even then, on the orders of their owners, they have to work 12 to 15 hours continuously. Similarly, children who collect materials for recycling from garbage contract many dangerous and infectious diseases prematurely.
The main causes of child labour in India are poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and low income. In a situationwhere more than 40% people suffer from poverty, , children often feed themselves and their parents during their childhood. In India, a large section of the population is uneducated and where making money is considered more important than obtaining an education. This ultimately leads to the encouragement of child labour.
In the Indian Constitution, under Part 3 , Article 12 to 30 and 32 to 35 prohibit exploitation of human rights, trafficking, forced labor and begging. To make children under the age of 14 years work in a hazardous environment is considered a crime.
In the year 1949, the Government set the minimum age of 14 years for workers. The Government also formed the Gurupad Swami Committee for the study of child labour problems in 1979, on whose suggestionin the Child labor Act was implmented in 1986. This was the first comprehensive law which prohibited the employment of children below the age of 14 years in the construction of systematic industries and other difficult industrial businesses such as beedi, carpet, match, fireworks etc. Despite this, the number of child labourers in our country remains in crores.
Each year, on June 12 the World Day against Child labour is celebrated. Governments, employers and workers organisations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world come together to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the world leaders in 2015 include a renewed global commitment towards ending child labour. Specifically, Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls on the global community to, “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025, end child labour in all its forms.”
But in spite of all this, the truth is that child labour continues to this day. Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel Prize winner believes that child labour can only be eliminated through collective action, political will, adequate resources and sympathy for the deprived children.