One can define child labor as the work which deprives a child’s dignity, joy, own childhood, physical and mental development. The work is social, mentally, physically and morally dangerous for children. It deprives the child to attend school or forces them to work for long hours along with schooling. Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, quotes that “Child labor sustains illiteracy, poverty, population growth, unemployment and various social problems.” Age group of five to fourteen years primarily consists of child laborers. In Indian Constitution, practicing child labor is illegal. Recruiting a child below fourteen years of age for an economic purpose by any employer is punishable by law.
The Existence of Child Labor in India
Poverty is the primary cause of child labor in India. Families not having enough resources force their children to work at a tender age. Unfortunately, some families feel that more children mean more income to pay off the debts. Lack of formal education led to increasing in child labor as parents don’t have the money for education and send them to work. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are the largest employers of child labor. These states contribute about 20% of India’s child laborers.
Working through bonds is a great misery for child labor. The children work with moneylenders and landlords to pay the debt of their families. They are rampantly exploited by working for several hours under the sun, and little food and water is provided to them or has to lift heavy loads. This process is going on for generations and is still prevalent in urban and rural areas. People enforcing these kinds of bonds can be arrested under Indian laws and faces hefty fines or jail terms for extended periods.
Small boys and girls are sent as domestic helpers in modern families hoping to get a good income and opportunities. The educated families do not pay heed to the laws thinking that they are protecting the child from vices and anti-social elements. Young girls attaining puberty are forced into flesh trade annually. Indian law states that sexual relations with any girl below eighteen years are termed as “Statutory Rape.” It leads to harsh punishments and is a criminal offense. Despite knowing the laws, criminals tempt the village people to send their young girls to the metros. The girls are promised glamorous jobs, but unfortunately, they are thrown into prostitution.
Family members unable to feed themselves force the small kids for begging. They survive in inhuman conditions and are fed poorly. Very often, they injure their limbs or hurt their eyes to get sympathy from people. There is a ban on child marriages in India but the system still prevalent among the uneducated families.
Affluent families marry the young girls and these girls spend their entire lives as child labor or slave. They are forced to do physically challenging household chores and spend their most of the day in the kitchen. Family and peer pressures prohibit them from taking legal laws. These girls bear a child at a very tender change, but most girls are not aware of the consequences of being a mother at an early age.
Weak Implementation of Laws & Increased Crimes
Kids doing crimes are very common in India. The famous Nirbhaya rape case on 16th December 2012 is one such incident. One of the rapists was young and had to escape harsh punishment as he was not an adult. In low-income families, children become negligent due to poverty and commit crimes, and in wealthy families, kids run to become independent and not to follow the discipline made by parents. These kids become child laborers and fearing that they again have to lead the same old life they don’t want to go back home. These kids often fall into the traps of criminals who tempt them into pickpocketing, drug peddling, and other illegal tasks.
Steps to Eradicate Child Labor
Many NGOs are working tirelessly with corporates to eradicate this problem and coordinating with the locals to capture the human traffickers. According to 2011 census data, there are over 10 million bonded children who are working in various professions like carpet weaving, hotels, leather, synthetic, gems, beedi-rolling, etc. Children also work in match factories, construction fireworks, mines, production of hybrid cottonseed and silk.
International Labour Organization has fixed 12th June every year holiday for raising awareness and prevents child labor. Many programs are being implemented by Save the Children foundation in vulnerable areas in India. The NGO joined hands with the Jammu and Kashmir Government for creating a full and stronger juvenile justice in 2013. The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986 was strengthened with the help of this NGO.
There are some articles in the Indian Constitution which protect a child from entering into child labor. Article 21 states that children of age six to fourteen must be given free education so that their parents don’t need to worry about the tuition fees. Article 24 is critical regarding as it states that there is a strict rule for abolishing the employment of small kids in hazardous environments. Article 39 describes the security need to be given by the state police authorities below fourteen years of age.
Programs like anti-child labor movements which brings former child laborers, government officials, civil activists, and celebrities to showcase change and eradicate child labor. The current scenario is that the civil society is leaving no stones unturned to end this grave menace from both the supply and the demand side. People are taking a cue from the developed nations to reduce child labor. The Ministry of Child Education, Child Protection and Health and Nutrition have engaged with lakhs of children to give them a new lease on life.