Problem of Child Labour in India
Child labour is a major problem across the globe but unfortunately India accounts for the largest number of child labourers in the world. According to Indian laws, child labour refers to engaging children between 6-14 years of age in any type of hazardous economic activity on part-time or full time basis. A recent survey shows that more than 12 million children are employed in jobs amongst which some of the jobs are hazardous. In India 90% of child labour is found in Andhra Pradesh.
Reasons for Child Labour:
Inequalities of income have forced families in the rural sector to encourage child labour. Families are so poor that they become dependent on their children’s income. In order to support large families, parents sometimes make illegal deals with the employer and push the children towards bonded labour. The employer also earns an advantage as he can get labour at a cheaper rate than the prevailing market rate. They are made to work in life threatening conditions in factories manufacturing firecrackers, coal mines, beedi-rolling factories etc. But this is not the case with the industrial sector alone. Many children are employed in the agriculture sector, roadside dhabas, restaurants, tea-stalls, and zari industry.
Rural areas lack good education systems. There are hardly any proper schools to provide basic education. There is lack of awareness regarding the need of education. People in villages prefer indulging their children into working rather than sending them to school. This is because academic education doesn’t guarantee job and also most of the people are so poor that they cannot afford paying school fees. It has been also observed in some cases that teacher’s do not appear even though students are present. There is a deep rooted problem of discouraging schooling of girl child. They are regarded as burden on the family and married of at a young age or put to work as a domestic help or in any other industry.
Extremely low literacy level is another cause that encourages child labour. Parents are mostly illiterate and are not aware about the needs of family planning. Therefore more and more children are given birth with the objective of putting them to work. More children mean more hands to earn money.
Rapid urbanization and mechanization of agriculture have forced the workforce to move to cities where unskilled labourers find it difficult to get job.
Farmers committing suicide is a common phenomenon which pushes children to become bread-earners for the family.
Laws for the Prevention of Child Labour:
1. Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986- This act prohibits employing children below 14 years of age in any type of hazardous occupation. Section 12 of this act makes it mandatory for construction sites and industries to display “child labour is prohibited” sign in English and any other local language. Though most industries follow this rule they rarely adhere to its content.
2. Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) of Children Act, 2000- This act makes child labour a criminal offence and therefore punishable under law. Punishment for bonded labour also falls under this category.
3. Factories Act, 1948- According to this act, children below 14 years of age cannot be employed in any factory. This act also provides guidelines regarding employment of children aged between 15 to 18 years.
4. Right to Education Act, 2009- This act imposes a duty on the State to ensure free and compulsory education for all children between 6-14 years of age. This act can be very effective in preventing child labour. As most children who join the labour force belong to the below poverty line level, their parents cannot afford cost of education. But if it becomes free then hopefully it will encourage them to send their children to school. It will also help the government to keep a closer watch on the incidents of child labour. It is good news that slowly people are becoming aware of this act.
According to the pre-independence laws the parents were also liable to be punished apart from the employer. But this provision was removed from post-independence laws. The parents are no more held liable.
However, it is important to note that mere existence of laws is just not enough to prevent child labour. They must be implemented properly and with sincerity sto remove this problem from the grass root level. Children are the future of a nation. They help a nation to grow, prosper and develop and for that they must be given scope to develop themselves.