By Zahra Motorwala.
In a country where unemployment and poverty prevail, the existence of child labour is not surprising in fact it is the most common phenomenon. some would say it’s rather better that the child works as a household help or in a factory and earns a little money which is helpful for him and his family than getting caught up in the vicious cycles of human trafficking which is another cause of concern.
India is the second highest country in the world where children are employed and exploited after Africa which accounts for the highest number of child labour cases. Today children below the age of 14 have become an important part of many industries and a good source of cheap labour which can be exploited from time to time. This does not only deprive the children of their childhood but cost them their innocence, education and dreams of a better future.
The use of children is maximum in industries like the Toy manufacturing, Production, Textiles, Construction, Food production, Light mechanical work.
A lot of these industries have rigorous work schedule stretching to 14 hours a day and starting at 4 am. The children are also denied a weekly off and are kept in meager conditions. They are fed hardly anything leave alone the daily nutrition requirement of a child.
The main cause of child labour is poverty. A poor family is easy to exploit and will give up on their children as they have no resources to feed them. Poverty in India is the outcome of the rise in population leading to unemployment and underemployment. There are families of 6-10 members which have only one earning member, this makes survival a difficult task and daily life a struggle.
Many families in rural India live below the poverty line and According to the criterion used by the Planning Commission of India 27.5% of the population was living below the poverty line in 2004–2005, down from 51.3% in 1977–1978, and 36% in 1993-1994.
According to the ‘Roots of Child Labor’, curing UNICEF’s 1997 State of the World’s Children Report,
“The parents of child labourers are often unemployed or underemployed, desperate for secure employment and income. Yet it is their children – more powerless and paid less – who are offered the jobs. In other words, says UNICEF, children are employed because they are easier to exploit.”
There is an act for the prevention of child labour in our constitution called the The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986’. The purpose of the act was to make child labour illegal and punishable by law so that it would help reduce child labour practices in the country. India also prohibits bonded and forced labour through the Bonded Labor Abolition Act, the Child Labor Act, and the Juvenile Justice Act.
Child labour in many cases leads to child abuse and is an important cause of human trafficking. Many children also become part of the flesh trade which is a more vicious circle.
The problem of Child labour could be decreased if not completely eradicated, if every citizen of our country becomes a responsible citizen and reports about anyone anywhere, who employs a child below the age of 14 years. Most people turn a blind eye towards any such malpractice happening around them in the fear of spoiling relations with the other person. This leads to indirectly encouraging the act of employing innocent children as worker. The educated urban population should be more sensitive towards children and the practice of child labour, which is very rampant in urban cities should stop. So lets all work towards saving children and their childhood. This will in some way give them a better life and make us better individuals proud of ourselves.
There are a lot of NGOs (non governmental organizations) that work towards the prevention and eradication of child labour such as AAMRAE which works for the welfare of street children, child abuse and child rights, Child Rehabilitation and Youth Oriented Nationwide Services (CRAYONS), Campaign Against Child Labour, Hope for children etc. which can be contacted for assistance, help and advice.