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Child labor

Whether you live in a landlocked metropolitan city or belong to some far off place of an

underdeveloped suburb, from a place known for tourism to a place around a university campus, a

child dusting chairs and tables, a child sweeping floors and placing glasses of water and cups for

your evening tea at a shop, or a child washing utensils in Dhabas, Hotels and Domestic houses is

no strange. As a matter of time now, the situation is prevalent to the extent that we have accepted

these small children working as normal workers.

Child labor in India has entered into a social fabric so deep that no one seems to be acutely

concerned about it, (of course except some article writing competitive events that give you an

opportunity to express your concerns over the issue).

Stories which happened to be gestured by movies, filled with characters of "Chhotus" and

"Chawannies", may arouse sentiments of an active NGO but like an unsupported tide for a cause,

the sentiments soon ebb as and then.

Above said are only a few examples and can be called as "visible child labor". Not so visible are

the thousands of children rolling beedis (a type of cigarette) and working in glass factories or

engaged in sericulture, making hand-knotted carpets, match-stick making etc. These kinds of

workers are innumerable young girls and boys performing domestic chores, helping their parents

employed in an urban or rural factory or on some other occupation.

“India has over 13 million workers aged between 5 and 14- the highest in the world- constituting

a substantial proportion of our work force and population”.
According to ILO "Child labor includes children primarily leading adult lives, working long

hours for low wages under conditions damaging to their health and to their physical and mental

development, sometimes separated from their families, frequently deprived of meaningful

educational and training opportunities that could open up for them a better future."

Reasons of this social evil are numerous, although much of it can be legitimately ‘credited’ to

the grinding poverty that exists in developing nations throughout the world. With limited

options, children are compelled to work side by side with parents or alone in order to make

enough money for survival. Besides harming the physical and intellectual growth of the child,

the process slowly affects the probability of nation's future growth as a whole.

The problem of child labor throughout the world is large and pervasive. An ILO estimate

recorded over 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 working worldwide. Caught in

an endless cycle are so many children who lose their youth to a life of labor and are drifted far

away from the mainstream of social development. Some of the industries where child labor is

very prominent are—

i. Carpet weaving, Varanasi-Badhoi, Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh).

ii. Glass industry, Firozabad (Uttar Pradesh)

iii. Pottery, Khurja (Uttar Pradesh)

iv. Brassware, Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh)

v. Lock industry, Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh)

vi. Leather Industry, Agra Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh)

vii. Gem Polishing, Jaipur (Rajasthan)
viii. Marble mines (Rajasthan)

ix. Match and fireworks, Shivakashi (Tamilnadu)

x. Bidi Industry, Triuchweapalli (Tamilnadu)

xi. Lead Mines (Meghalaya)

xii. Stone quarries (Kerala)

The use of Child Labor in clothes sector got noticed when GAP (a global clothing brand) pulled

itself from shops in the US and Europe garments made in India after allegations that local

contractors employed children to manufacture them.

You wonder how working conditions inside the above mentioned industries are like?

It’s horrible. Working in unhygienic conditions and over-crowded workplaces of these

industries, children suffer from many occupation-related diseases. They have to work with

hazardous chemicals like Potassium Cyanide, Tri-sodium phosphate, sodium silicate,

hydrochloric acid, Sulphuric acid, etc., particularly in lock industry. They have to bear high

temperature in brass industry and carry molten glass in glass factory. They inhale noxious fumes;

dust produced in polishing. They are exposed to electric shocks and suffer from tuberculosis

(common in carpet industry), bronchitis, asthma and other diseases.

Steps to improve the condition:- Experience says that all round efforts on the part of

Government, non-government organizations, trade unions, media, human right activists, trade

associations, employees organizations and even among children can help elimination of child

labor and imposition of complete ban on child labor. In India, the efforts focused on elimination

of child labor can be categorized in three ways. Legal framework, which India has formulated in
the form of various laws, Act etc have been guided by two important documents: Constitution

provisions (Particularly Article 15 (3), 24, 39 and 45 of the constitution provisions) and UN

conventions on the rights of the child. Secondly, programmes and policies run by government

and then non-governmental efforts.

The ILO has 20 conventions; of these 8 are fundamental right conventions viz. Forced Labor

Convention, Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, Equal Remuneration Convention,

Discrimination (employment occupation) Convention, Freedom of Association and Protection of

Right to Organized Convention, Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention,

Minimum Age Convention, Worst form of Child Labor Convention. Guided by these

constitutional and International guidelines are the important laws and legislations providing

protection to child labor such as the children (pledging of labor) Act, 1933, The Employment of

Child Act, 1938 etc. Beside these a number of commissions and committees like the Whitely

Commission in 1929, the Rege Committee in 1944 and the Gurupadaswamy Committee of 1979

have recommended laws to regulate child labor.

These efforts may crop seeds of joy in the minds of concerned but the fact remains there that

Child labor is still prevalent in India to its fullest. This is because legal action taken against the

proliferation of child labor often produces few results.

Recall G.K Chesterton (Scandal of Father Brown)"It isn't that they can't see the solution, it’s

that they can't see the problem".

Laws against such abuses have little effect in a nation where this abhorred practice is accepted as

being necessary for poor families to earn an income. Thus, an extensive reform process is
necessary to eliminate the proliferation of child labor abuses in India which strives to end the

desperate poverty in the nation. Changing the structure of the workforce and hiring the high

number of currently unemployed adults in greatly improved work conditions is only the first step

in this lengthy process.

New labor standards and wages must be adopted and medical examinations and minimum

nutrition requirements must be established in India. Establishing schools and eliminating the

rampant illiteracy that plagues the country would work to preserve structural changes. However,

these changes cannot be accomplished immediately. There is no denying the fact that child labor

is a curse to society but the question is that how to do away with it? Poverty and child labor are

understood to go hand in hand. So many people living below the poverty line are forced to send

there child as worker. Illiteracy, population explosion, poor wages increase the chances of child

labor. It’s the result of the exploitation of the weak and vulnerable and it is always the poorest

sections of the society who are most vulnerable to this exploitation. When children start working

at a young age they remain illiterate, unskilled and unable to demand their rights for equal wages

and better conditions of work.

Working long hours, they burn themselves out and their health is severely impaired (Burra,75).

Such children when turn into adults are not able to earn much due to little skill and impaired

health and having responsibilities of his family again send their child to work as child labor. The

child labor (prohibition and regulation) Act 1986 operates within a regulatory framework with

the belief that child labor could not be abolished as long as poverty existed. As a consequence

the law has revealed several legal and procedural loopholes.

The National Policy on Education talks of universal elementary education, but education has not

become compulsory up to 14 years of age in terms of law. Pre-primary education is not legislated
upon. Non-formal education, rehabilitation and general development programmers are talked

about in the national policy on child labors (NPCL) but our not made a part of law. Laws on

education as well as laws on children ignore the nowhere children (Report of the National

Commission on Labor, 1028).

To counterattack child labor prevalent in labor-intensive industries, the government wants

independent agencies to undertake a child labor audit of export units. The government also

proposes that representatives of the ministries of labor, women & child development and

commerce meet every three months to review progress (The Financial Express online, 04.12.2007).

Thus, schemes of number of ministries and various departments need to work in coordination to

achieve maximum benefit. This is necessity of convergence to operate these schemes in better

manner. Certain schemes are directly routed to the district/panchayats bypassing the states. Some

ministries and state departments which need coordination are the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry

of Human Resources Development, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and

Family Welfare, the Ministry of Social Justice and Enforcement, Department of Education,

Department of Labor, Department of Agriculture, Department of Backward Castes and

Minorities, Department of Economics and Statistics, Department of Employment and Training,

Department of Factories and Boiler, Department of Finance, Department of Health and Family

Welfare, Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Department of Social Welfare,

Department of Women and Child Development, Department of Welfare of the Disabled,

Department of Fisheries, Horticulture, Mines, Sericulture etc.

Government, non-government organizations, media, trade unions, social activists etc have to

work in consonance so that they can instill motivation in parents and children toward education.

Infrastructure facilities too at the schools particularly in rural areas need improvement.

For conscious-a-many, the mission each ‘one teach one’ has failed to show the colors of

improvement and have fallen short to deliver its aforesaid promises of reviving every child’s

buried ambitions of study.

The situation points towards an unrealized fact that that for any change to show its auspicious

face, what first need to be corrected is the iniquitous in the country's administration fabric,

stuffed with poor staff, ill-equipped and not so willing bureaucracy to implement and enforce

these laws in full strength. The bureaucracy is also expected to determine whether a child is

working in a non-hazardous process or a hazardous occupation if it wants to send every child to a

school with some set of books rather sending them to a workplace with some set of tools where

there is no future and hope.