Child Labour means the employment of children in any kind of work that hampers their physical and mental development, deprives them of their basic educational and recreational requirements. A large number of children are compelled to work in various hazardous and non-hazardous activities such as in the agriculture sector, glass factories, carpet industry, brass industries, matchbox factories, and as domestic help. It is a blot on our society and speaks immensely about the inability of our society to provide a congenial environment for the growth and development of children.
Childhood is considered to be the best time of one’s life but unfortunately, this does not hold true for some children who struggle to make both ends meet during their childhood years. According to the Child Labour project and 2011 census, 10.2 million children are engaged in child labour in India, out of which 4.5 million are girls.
Earlier, children helped their parents in basic chores in agriculture such as sowing, reaping, harvesting, taking care of the cattle, etc. However, with the growth of the industries and urbanization, the issue of child labour has increased. Children at a very tender age are employed for various inappropriate activities and they are forced to make hazardous stuff using their nimble fingers. They are employed in the garment factories, leather, jewelry, and sericulture industries.
There are a number of factors that attributes to the rise of this peril.
Poverty plays a major role in the issues of child labour. In poor families, children are considered to be an extra earning hand. These families believe that every child is a bread-earner and so they have more children. As these children grow up, they are expected to share their parents’ responsibilities.
Illiteracy is an important factor that contributes to this problem. The illiterate parents think that education is a burden because they need to invest more in comparison to the returns that they get in the form of earnings from their children. The child labourers are exposed to unhygienic conditions, late working hours, and different enormities, which have a direct effect on their cognitive development. The tender and immature minds of the children are not able to cope with such situations leading to emotional and physical distress.
Unethical employers also prefer child labourers than adults because they are able to extract more work from them and pay a lesser amount of wage. Bonded child labour is the cruelest act of child labour. In this type of child labour, the children are made to work in order to pay off a loan or a debt of the family. Bonded labour has also led to the trafficking of these impoverished children from rural to urban areas in order to work as domestic help or in small production houses or just to lead the life of street beggars.
The government has a very important role to play in the eradication of child labour. As poverty is the major cause of child labour in our country, the government should give assurance to provide the basic amenities to the lower strata of our society. There should be an equal distribution of wealth. More work opportunities need to be generated in order to give fair employment to the poor. The various NGOs across the nation should come forward and provide vocational training to these people in order to get good jobs or to make them self-employed.
This lower stratum of our society should understand and believe the importance of education. The government and the NGOs should reach out to such people to raise awareness and initiate free education to all children between the age group of 6-14 years. The parents must be encouraged to send their children to schools instead of work.
Educated and affluent citizens can come forward and contribute to the upliftment of this class of society. They should spread the message about the harmful effects of child labour. Schools and colleges can come up with innovative teaching programmes for poor children. Offices and private and government institutions should offer free education to the children of their staff.
Moreover, awareness of family planning needs to be created among these people. The NGOs and the government must educate them about family planning measures. This will help the family to reduce the burden of feeding too many mouths.
The Indian Government enacted many laws to protect child rights, namely the Child and Adolescent Labour Act, 1986, the Factories Act, 1948, the Mines Act, 1952, the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
As per the Child Labour Act (Prohibition and Regulation), 1986, children under the age of fourteen years old could not be employed in hazardous occupations. This act also attempts to regulate working conditions in the jobs that it permitted and emphasizes health and safety standards.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 mandates free and compulsory education to all children between the age group of 6 to 14 years old.
A nation full of poverty-ridden children cannot make progress. It should be the collective responsibility of the society and the government to provide these impoverished children with a healthy and conducive environment, which will help them to develop their innate capabilities and their skills effectively.
Q1. What do you understand by Child Labour?
Ans. Child Labour means the employment of children in any kind of work that impedes their physical and mental development, deprives them of their basic educational and recreational requirements.
Q2. What factors lead to Child Labour?
Ans. Poverty, illiteracy, no family control lead to Child Labour. Even the growth of industrialization and urbanization play a major role in the Child Labour. The exploitation of poor people by unethical employers on account of failing to pay their loans or debts, lead to child labour.
Q3. What measures should be taken to eradicate Child Labour?
Ans. The government, NGOs should raise awareness about family control measures among the weaker section of the society. The government should provide free amenities and education to children between the age group of 6-14 years. The government should generate more employment opportunities for them. The schools and colleges can come up with innovative teaching programs for them.
Q4. Which policy has banned the employment of Children?
Ans. The Child and Adolescent Labour Act, 1986 has banned the employment of children under the age of 14 years.