What is Child Labor?
Children are the greatest gifts of nature to humanity. They are the future of the country. But not every child gets the luxury of a safe and comfortable childhood. Many of them are forced to work under inhumane conditions slogging day and night and exposed to all kinds of vulnerabilities, be it physical abuse, or mental abuse and even sexual abuse. Child Labor is the practice of involving children in commercial activities, on part-time or full-time basis. This practice deprives children of their childhood, irrespective of the fact that each child is guaranteed protection under the Indian Law, free education and mid – day meal till the age of 14. We can see a Chotu in the roadside dhabas serving food, or a chotu running errands for a shop keeper or a chotu in the transport areas too!
Acute poverty, lack of awareness, absence of good schools and growth of informal economy are considered to be the important causes of child labor in India.As per Census 2011, the total child population in India in the age group (5-14) years is 259.6 million, out of which, 10.1 million children are working.However, the actual number of child laborers goes unnoticed many a times and they are subjected to low wages, inadequate food and appalling working conditions.
Types of Child Labor in India
According to UNICEF, there are about 10.1 million children engaged in child labor. That amounts to approximately 13% of our workforce.
Dangerous working conditions of Child Labor in India
Legislation to prevent Child Labor
Over the past two decades India has put in place a range of laws and programs to address the problem of child labor. The Government has passed a new legislation to protect children from sexual offenses and children and adults from trafficking and forced labor. However, the implementation is rarely practiced. During pre – independence, the Employment of Children Act, 1938, was introduced because even then, under colonial British regime, it was apparent that childhood of a child is precious. After independence, the Factories Act, 1948 and the Mines Act, 1952, also prohibited the tradition of using children below the age of 14 and 18, in their respective manufacturing units. Then came the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 which prevents the employment of children below the age of 14 years in life-threatening occupations identified in a list by the law and eventually the employment of children is a punishable offense under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000.
The JJ Act came into power soon after India ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in 1992 and made the offence punishable with imprisonment from three months to one year or with fine no less than INR 10,000–20,000 rupees or with both.The Right to Education Act, passed in 2009, was aimed at facilitating a conducive atmosphere to build the capabilities of all children, so that they can get a complete basic education and are not forced to enter the workforce forcibly without their own choice. However, even after all this, child labor continues to be in practice in a lot of industries.
Changing nature of child labor
With the changing urbanization, child labor has increased noticeably in the urban areas, and child labor numbers have risen from 1.3 million in 2001 to 2 million in 2011. It’s a matter of great concern as millions of children laborers remain undetected, employed in homes as domestic help, and paid wages that are nowhere near those stipulated by Indian Law. Girls are often deployed in household domestic labor while boys are sent out to the fields and into the mines. In contrast, children should be enjoying their childhood, playing, running around and enjoying their innocence that nature has rightfully bestowed upon them.
June 12 is celebrated as World Day against Child Labor
It’s their time to play…..
It’s their time to learn!
Don’t force them to earn….
Let childhood last
Stop child labor!!
Child labor is a reality in India. We are creating a generation of malnourished, uneducated and highly vulnerable Indians by promoting or ignoring this issue. If you ever see a child under the age of 14 working anywhere in your locality, be it a house, a hotel or a nearby factory, do your duty, dial 1098 and report immediately!
Mrs. Swarupa Pandit
Assistant Professor, Department of Arts & Humanities, Kalinga University
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