Adding another feather to its cap, India showcased its nuclear muscle on this republic day to the entire world. By doing this, India has taken a step towards being in the queue of the developed nations across the world. However, the challenge of child labour exploitation brings us back to the category of developing and underdeveloped countries. It is heart breaking to see thousands of children below 14 years of age working in factories and households.
Childhood is considered to be the most innocent phase of human life. It is the phase when the human foundations are laid for a successful adult life. Yet, a lot of children never experience this phase fully. Many children are only scarred and tormented and simply hate their childhood. They want to break free from this problematic phase and would do anything for getting out of the dungeons of being children.
In an otherwise developed country, these underprivileged children work at the cost of their right to education thereby leaving them permanently trapped in poverty, sadly without education and literacy required for well-paid jobs. Although the national data claims that around 17 million children in India are engaged in child labour, reality is much more alarming. As many as 60 million children are working as labourers in various industries across the country, out of which a large percentage of them work as hidden workers in homes and underground economy.
Reasons behind increasing child labour are often associated with poverty, inadequate public education system and the needs of the large families in the country. A large number of families are generally unable to send their children to school as they cannot afford to go without their children’s income for long.
Further, the demand put forward by several industries across the country has aggravated the situation. Many manufacturing firms and sweat shops are mindfully established at poverty stricken areas which attract children to work as labourers. With profits maximising objectives, these firms are in profit by employing the children rather than adults due to their cheaper wages, higher efficiency and most importantly the absence of union problems.
Although itself and evil, the worst form of child labour is much more heinous than the principal form. Bonded child labour is the most crucial form of child labour in which children are sold by their parents for a petty sum, or to pay off some debt. These children unknowingly enter a long run employer slave relationship and are tied to the debt bondage for usually their entire lifetimes.
Although bondage is illegal in India and several initiatives are being taken to stop bonded child labour, little has been done so far to improve the condition of these children. Both bonded labour system (abolition) act, 1976 and child labour (prohibition and regulation) act 1986 have hardly contributed for the upliftment of these children. This inefficiency of these acts can be attributed to the use of loopholes and ambiguity by the employers.
Child Labour is prevalent in a number of industries where children are tortured beyond imagination to be made useful to the business.
• Child labour in agricultural sector: About 80% child labourers in the country are employed in the agricultural sector. Mostly, children are sold to the money lenders who make them work in the farmed lands.
• Street Children: Children work as beggars, flower sellers and are also used for selling small articles on the roads around the traffic signals and main points. They go hungry for days on not fetching enough money to the employer. In fact, most of them are purposely starved to create sadness in the minds of people who would either give them something or buy the article from them.
• Glass Factories: Almost 60,000 children are employed in glass and bangle industry and are forced to work in extreme conditions like excessive heat.
• Matchbox Factories: Experts claim that out of the total labourers working in this industry, more than 35% are children below 14 years of age. They are forced to work 12 hours a day, usually starting at 4 in the morning.
• Carpet Industry: Around 4, 20,000 children are employed in the carpet industry in the country.
It has to be understood by the general public in the country that the malady of child labour has to be reduced by all means and it can only be done if every individual takes the responsibility of reporting and bringing into limelight. As a member of the general community, this fact has to be understood by the people of the country that no evil can be removed just by the implementation of appropriate rules and regulations.
Government, police or even the judiciary cannot do anything without the help of the people who live and see child labour all around them. It is our social responsibility to first speak against any such thing happening around us and then take the things forward by reporting such cases to the authorities.
On the other hand, government need to come forward with better policies and should ensure better implementation of these policies to abolish this ill practice that has robbed millions of children around us from living a peaceful and happy childhood.