Child labour is dissimilar from normal labour. Bearing in mind that universally, an individual is considered an adult upon turning 18, child labour refers to a practice whereby children under the legal working age, i.e. 14 years, are made to do work that is physically or mentally harmful to them at that age. Unfortunately, this comes forth in almost every industry, in works such as brick making, bangle making, agriculture, and various hazardous work.
Generally, people tend to get confused between work that is considered dangerous and decent at that age. Here, dangerous work comprises tasks performed by children below the age of 18 and involves risk to the health of the child. In contrast, decent work is considered as one that helps children in their all-round development, for example, internships that help in learning particular skills and how to work in formal environments.
CAUSES OF CHILD LABOUR
● High levels of Poverty and Unemployment – Poor families give birth to multiple children with the ideology that they will act as helping hands for them in regards to monthly income. Due to the higher demand of child workers as compared to employment opportunities for adults, and because pay rates for children are less than that of adults as well, the employer is left with increased bargaining power. ● Debts – Money borrowed by an individual from a moneylender to, for example. repay bills, are in turn repaid to the moneylender in the form of asking the individual's child or children to work for them for a definite or indefinite period. ● Professional Needs - Numerous industries like the bangle making industry require small delicate hands and fingers, leaving children working in such sectors with severe health problems, mainly affecting their eyes.
INDUSTRIES EMPLOYING CHILDREN
● Mining – Children involved in underground mining and quarries often suffer extreme health risks. ● Flesh Trade – Young girls are often sold and forced into prostitution. In such circumstances, girls lose their childhood and destroy their lives in the process, leaving them with limited future opportunities. ● Agriculture – Children are often placed in fields to harvest crops for very long hours. They are exposed to extreme heat and pressure with very little or no pay. Many are left without adequate food and water. ● Factories – Numerous factory owners employ children despite the work being hazardous, for example, glass factories, clothing factories and fireworks industries.
Child Labour is practised prominently in the above industries. As most of these children come from poor backgrounds, belonging to minority groups, or abducted from their families, such tasks and harsh working conditions create a myriad of problems for them. These difficulties include premature ageing, drug dependency and depression.
CHILD LABOUR LAWS
● The Child Labour Act, 1986 – According to this act, no child below the age of 14 can be employed for work involving the use of a hazardous substance which can pose a risk to the health of children. The list of what comes under the hazardous acts are as follows-
a. Handling of toxic or inflammable substances or explosives;
b. Handloom and power loom industry;
c. Mines (underground and underwater) and collieries;
d. Plastic units and fibreglass workshops, amongst countless others. Section 3 of this act states, anyone violating the provisions of this act will be punished with 3 months of imprisonment which can extend up to 1 year or with a fine of Rs. 10,000 which can extend up to Rs. 20,000 or both.
● The Factories Act, 1948 – This act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 in any kind of factory.
● The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 – As per this act, every child up to the age of 14 is entitled to free education. This has been raised and is now a fundamental right under Article 21-A. Additionally, this act ensures that 25% of the seats at private institutions are reserved for children coming from poorer backgrounds. Further, it ensures that no child is deprived of education based on their financial conditions.
● The Juvenile Justice of Children Act, 2000 – This act penalizes the offence of child labour, and anyone who violates the provision of this act shall be penalized with imprisonment for a certain term, a fine or with both.
● The Mines Act, 1948 – This act prohibits children below the age of 18 years to work in mines as it is considered as being one of the most dangerous occupations. Many accidents have previously taken place, where children were involved and got severely injured.
CHILD PROTECTION UNDER THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION The constitutional provisions dealing with the welfare of children are as follows -:
● Article 15(3) empowers the state to make special provisions for women and children.
● Article 21A, introduced in the 86th Constitutional amendment, provides that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between ages 6-14 in such manner as the state may, by law, determine.
● Article 24 prohibits the employment of children in factories, mines, agriculture, etc.
● Article 39, under clause (e) and (f), obligates the state to safeguard the health of children and afford opportunities to grow with dignity.
● Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education for children.
THE ROLE OF NGOS IN CURBING CHILD LABOUR
● Implementations of Policies – NGOs constantly try to pressurize the government to introduce new policies and laws that aim to protect children from child labour.
● Raising and Creating Awareness – NGOs perform plays in various areas to spread awareness amongst people to make them understand the impacts of child labour. NGOs also publish articles to spread the word amongst people about the sad plight of poor children.
● Private Donations – NGOs ask for donations from people and tie-up with big organizations to curb this evil. Moreover, NGOs donate money to help children by paying for their education, food, and various expenses and spread awareness amongst them by telling them about the importance of education.
Despite having countless laws and NGOs working towards eradicating child labour in our country, there remains a drastic rise. 80% of children below the age of 14 years are engaged in child labour and are based in rural areas, so coming across a child working at a tea stall, a stone quarry or a bangle factory is not rare. In spite of the many efforts put in, child labour remains a problem and a poor conviction rate of violators.
SUGGESTIONS TO CURB CHILD LABOUR
● Spread Awareness – Making aware people about the situation of child labour will be a great help to make the situation better, especially when the parents are made aware of the evil like child labour. It might help them to send their children to school rather than sending their children to work in such hazardous surroundings. Because if there is a lack of understanding among the parents then it makes the situation more difficult because then the trafficker’s prey upon children and many children end up in child labour. NGOs also use community events, plays, etc. to educate people about the importance of child rights and the importance of education. ● Increasing Literacy Rates – Increasing the number of children in schools helps them in understanding the importance of having and receiving education. This will further encourage them and make them more eager to attain education to not fall into the trap of child labour. India has one of the best education systems, yet literacy rates are subpar. One of the main reasons behind this is the low enrollment in schools which many organizations are trying to change. ● More Effective laws and Better Implementation – There should be an increased focus on better implementation and enforcement of the existing child labour laws. Amendments are required to be made in the existing laws, for example, the age of the child provided under the Child Labour Act, 1986 which is 14 years, should be changed to 18 years.
● More Employment Opportunities – The online spread of awareness and increasing literacy will not overcome hunger. To overcome child labour, the government needs to provide jobs to unemployed parents, or at the least bear the expenses of the child until he or she reaches a certain age, a similar t practice occurring in many of the other countries.
The above suggestions need to be taken into consideration for the better future for these children and every other child stuck in the web of child labour.
To conclude, the children of our nation are a supremely important asset. Children’s programs should find a prominent part in our national plans for the further development of human resources. With this, our children will grow up to become robust citizens, physically and mentally fit, and morally healthy; endowed with the skills and motivations needed to live. Moreover, child labour is a significant problem in India. The prevalence of it is shown by the child work participation rates which are higher in Indian than in other developing countries. The main aim of India should be to provide equal opportunities for development to all children during their period of growth. For this purpose, even we citizens should join hands with the government and other institutions which are set up for similar purposes.