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Children in Indian society have always been a topic that has been less discussed and spoken about. As John. Kennedy said that “children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” Children are the greatest gifts of humanity and must be always protected. children at their tender age need to be educated, need to be mentally and socially developed which forms the base of their life. The children of our society should be given the right environment to grow up and be better human beings. Child labour is one such thing that deprives these young minds of all the opportunities and drags them to a life of misery and sorrow. Despite there being so many laws protecting child labour the number of children doing labour are only increasing.
PROBLEM OF CHILD LABOUR
1) CHILD LABOUR IN INDIA
India sadly is home to the largest number of child laborers in the world. According to the 2011 census, there are about 10.1 million child laborers in India of which 5.6 million are males and 4.6 Million are females. According to the UNICEF, there has been a 54% increase in child labour cases in India. In a census conducted by the CRY foundation every 11th child in India between the ages of 5- 18 is working and the number of children doing labour has increased by 37% and 80 percent of the child laborers are from rural areas. These shocking statistics tell us that the problem is more severe than spoken about. In India children especially from the rural areas are forced to work in hazardous factories, as domestic help, selling goods in shops, and many other jobs that young children should not be doing. The most dangerous part is when these children are forcefully engaged in drug peddling, prostitution, forced begging, stealing, and many other illegal works that negatively influence the children which leave a deep scar when they grow up. According to National Human Rights Commission of India about 40000 children are abducted for sex trade leaving around 11000 untraced. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights report states that about 90 percent of children working in fireworks factories have been contacted with asthma, eye disease, and TB. Many of them were also found to be victims of psychological, physical, and verbal abuse. Many children who are forced to do illegal things such as drug peddling and prostitution have been found to have severe depression and anxiety, loss of confidence, trouble sleeping, and many problems that completely harm the development of the child.
In the landmark case of MC Mehta vs State of Tamil Nadu & Ors it was clearly stated by the supreme court that child labour should not be practiced and laid down the guidelines for the work that children should not be doing.
CAUSES OF CHILD LABOUR
There are many reasons why child labour is extensively increasing in India.
The main causes for child labour are:
Poverty has been the main cause of child labour for many years. The rural families are so poor that most of the times that it becomes difficult for them to make their ends meet hence when their children are a little grown, they put them to factories or someplace where they can work and earn some money for the family. Most of the families do not even have the money where they can send their children to school for availing proper education. This totally ruins their childhood and their right to education. MC Mehta vs State of Tamil Nadu reads the interrelation between poverty and child labour.
b) Uneducated families
The families of the children are uneducated and hence do not understand and comprehend the value of education in one’s life. They feel that education would not lead them anywhere it is just the work that will help them in their life. This narrow thought process deprives young children of their rights and becomes a cause of child labour.
c) Limited access to education
In the rural areas to be educated isn’t seen as of one quality seen necessary by the people. Moreover, the number of schools and colleges are a little far from their village which makes it more difficult for these children to avail education.
d) Lure of cheap labour
Children are kept at a very cheap rate in factories and other places. Many places do not provide the children with money instead of with food and a shelter to stay. This in a way helps the families as they do not have to spend money on the child and at the same time keep their home running. Children are cheaper to keep than adults because of their age and many other factors and hence more children are kept which directly promotes child labour.
LAWS PROTECTING THE CHILDREN FROM FORCEFUL LABOUR
a) Article 24
Article 24 of the Indian constitution reads that No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. This article strictly mentions that it is illegal to keep children below the age of 14 to be employed in any hazardous factories or any other place.
b) Article 21(a)
Article 21(a) of the Indian constitution makes right to education from ages 6-14 years a fundamental right. In the case of Mohini Jain and Unnikrishnan vs State of Andhra Pradesh the court observed that the right to education is a fundamental right.
c) Abolition of child labour act, 2018
The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law.
d) The Factories Act of 1948:
The Act prohibits the working and employment of children below the age of 14. This act also places reasonable restriction on the children of 15-18years working in the factory.
e) The Mines Act of 1952:
This act prohibits children below the age of 18 to work in any mine. Mines can be a very dangerous place which can take lives of people and hence children should not be made to work here.
f) The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000:
This act makes it a crime for anyone who employs a child below the age of 14 years in a hazardous factory or setting.
g) The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009:
This act makes it mandatory and compulsory for the children from ages 6-14 years to have free education. This means that children cannot work they have to complete their education.
Also read: Healthcare For The Prisoners
SOLUTION TO CHILD LABOUR
India is home to the world’s most child labourers, and this should be very alarming to every citizen of the country. Our country can reduce and abolish child labour if certain adequate steps are taken. India has many laws to protect the child from being laboured but where India is lacking is the execution. An India Today article reads that child labour violators go scot-free as only 25% of cases reach a conviction. With such execution of laws, crime and injustice towards children is bound to increase. To reduce child labour firstly the people, need to be educated about the rights of these children which include the right to not work in a hazardous factory and the right to compulsory education. The more aware the people are the easier it would be to rescue the children from being laboured and prevent further children from working at such tender ages. The government should appoint a committee that would engage in educating the parents of these children and help them understand the need of education in one’s life and the negative effect of child labour on the child. The government should also appoint a committee that would regularly check the staff in different factories and mines where the vulnerability of children being laboured is more. The government needs to take stringent actions against people who encourage child labour. Once the government starts taking stringent actions, the other factory owners and other people professing child labour would be compelled to follow the law. The government cannot move ahead towards development with the children still being exploited and being denied their basic right of education. The police of every state needs to be more aware and needs to regularly check the crimes taking place against children specifically arising from factories and other hazardous settings. Moreover, the people of the country need to be self-aware to not employ young kids as domestic help or car cleaners even if they say they want to help and earn money. The people need to speak up to owners of restaurants and small dhabas where young children are often found working and serving food to the customers. The most important thing is the awareness amongst the educated people who know the ill-effects of child labour. With the above solutions one day child labour would be reduced, and India can be a country without child Labour.
The problem of child labour is not new but the way in which it has to be dealt with should be changed for an effective reduction in the number of children found doing labor. Child labor mentally, socially, and physically affects the development of the child and hence such a crime against children should immediately be stopped. Karl Menninger said,” what’s done to children, they will do to society.” To make this world more peaceful and a habitable place we need to protect these children at any cost.
- MC Mehta vs State of Tamil Nadu- SCC (1) 283 JT 1990
- Mohini Jain and Unnikrishnan vs State of Andhra Pradesh – SCC (1) 645, JT 1993
- Article 24 – Indian constitution
Author: Dhwisha Bhatt, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India.