Child Labour in India - Issues And Responses
“A Child is a father of the Man” -William Wordsworth.
We can easily recognize the importance of the Child. The above statement has wide scope for interpretation. Child is very important for the development of the society at large. The development of the Nation is exclusively based on the status of the Child. It is also true that this is one of the vulnerable groups in the society. We can also further add that Children are the Assets of the Nation. Children plays very significant role in the Nation building. All these make obligatory on everyone to protect and provide various safeguards to the children. It is our prime duty to provide care and protection towards children as they are innocent. For the progress of the community at large we need to pay attention towards education of children. In reality there are various social evils with children; one of them is Child Labour.
The Child Labour system is in existence in developing and underdeveloped counties. As per the information available, India is one of the Countries where in large number of children below the age of 14 years working in various organizations. If there is no proper distribution of work among the member of the society then children automatically forced to do work for their survival. Unemployment of adult members of the particular family results into Child Labour.
In any Country protection of children and young people is of prime importance. So the responsibility to provide healthy atmosphere to the children to their fullest physical and mental development rests on all the civilized society. Every human being is a social animal. As we are a part of the society the responsibility to take reasonable care of the children and young people is on the shoulder of all members of the society. Finally, it can be said that society at large morally responsible to maintain healthy atmosphere.
v Child Labour:
Child Labour is work that harms children or keeps them from attending school. The various problems arising in Social, Economic and Political condition is one of the major reasons for growth of this problem. The International Labour Organization estimates that 246 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 currently work under conditions that are considered illegal, hazardous, or extremely exploitative.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan quoted, “Child Labour has serious consequences that stay with the individual and with society for far longer than the years of childhood.” The issues relating to Child Labour has given significance at national and international level. The main prime purpose behind this is to provide effective safeguards to the children all over the globe.
The term Child Labour is used for employment of children below a certain age, which is considered illegal by law and custom. The stipulated age varies from country to country and government to government. Child Labour is a world phenomenon which is considered exploitative and inhuman by many International Organizations.
Child Labour, as defined by the International Labour Organization, refers to work that leads to the deprivation of one’s childhood and education opportunities. Effects include a loss of potential and dignity in self, which is harmful to a child’s physical and mental development. The term Child Labour is defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity and that is harmful to their physical and mental development.
Child Labour is conventionally defined as a working child between age of 5-14 who are doing labour or engaged in economical activity either paid or unpaid. The definition of child as given under Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 defines child means a person who has not completed his fourteen years of age so by this definition the question of Child Labour is solved.
A number of policy initiatives and programmes have been undertaken in this country over the last decade. The basic object of all is dealing with the problem of rapidly increasing number of child workers. Indian Constitutional law, The formulation of a new National Child Labour Policy, the enactment of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, the setting up of a Task Force on Child Labour, the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other legislations governing problems of Child Labour have all formed a part of this process. Corresponding initiatives were taken in the related area of education where a New Education policy was formulated which incorporated a separate component for working children. It is the objective of this paper to examine whether the legal framework available in this country can make an impact on the Child Labour situation. Particularly, the present paper aimed at to understand the issue of Child Labour in the Indian context.
v Child Labour as an Economic Practice:
Two assumptions have broadly influenced Government's policies in respect of Child Labour. The first is that, Child Labour is a 'harsh reality' and one can only mitigate some of the harshness of the exploitative aspects of Child Labour. The 'harsh reality' of Child Labour arises out of the fact that in the present state of development in the country many parents, on account of poverty, have to send their children to work in order to supplement their income and the income derived from the Child Labour, however to do work is essential to sustain the family. This is the 'poverty argument of Child Labour.
Further it can be said that Child Labour as an economic practice signifies employment of children in gainful economic occupation with a view to adding to the income of the family.
v Child Labour as a Social Evil:
The second assumption is that there is a distinction between Child Labour and exploitation of the Child Labour. It has been accepted that a certain amount of Child Labour will persist under the family environment which is non-exploitative. This is not only inevitable but also desirable. At the same time, there are other forms of child work such as in hazardous occupations, factories and other organized establishments which are reprehensible and should not be allowed to continue. Adding to this its true to say employment of children below notified age by the legislation providing rules regarding prohibition and regulation of Child Labour in dangerous, hazardous industries and engagement depriving of opportunities of their development.
Child Labour is not Child work. Child work can be beneficial and can enhance a child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development without interfering with schooling, recreation and rest. Helping parents in their household activities and business after school in their free time also contributes positively to the development of the child. When such work is truly part of the socialization process and a means of transmitting skills from parents to child, it is not Child Labour. Through such work children can increase their status as family members and citizens and gain confidence and self-esteem.
Child Labour, however, is the opposite of child work. Child Labour hampers the normal physical, intellectual, emotional and moral development of a child. Children who are in the growing process can permanently distort or disable their bodies when they carry heavy loads or are forced to adopt unnatural positions at work for long hours. Children are less resistant to diseases and suffer more readily from chemical hazards and radiation than adults. UNICEF classifies the hazards of Child Labour into three categories, namely-Physical; Cognitive; Emotional, Social and Moral.
There are number of legislations prohibiting employment of children below 14 and 15 years in certain specified employments. However, no procedure is laid down in any law for deciding in which employments, occupations, or the processes the employment of children is banned. But there is no law to regulate the working conditions of children in those employments where children are not prohibited from working and are working under exploitative conditions.
v Incidences which we can refer as a Child Labour:
Following are the issues which can recognize as a Child Labour:
# is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
# interferes with their schooling by:
# depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
# obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
# requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
v Reasons behind Child Labour:
1. The combination wide spread Poverty and the lack of a Social Security Network
2. Lacking of effective Education Policy
3. Unemployment or Under employment of the Parents and Guardians of the Child
4. Child Labourers are always better than Adult Workers (Cheaper Labour)
6. Population explosion, Traditional Occupations
7. Parental Attitude.
8. Lack of Minimum Wages.
9. Single Parenthood
v Strategy to be adopted during the tenth plan for elimination of Child Labour:
a. Focused and reinforced action to eliminate Child Labour in the hazardous occupations by the end of the Plan period.
b. Expansion of the NCLPs to additional 150 districts during the Plan.
c. Ensuring that the NCLPs have a focused time frame of 5 years with clearly defined targets.
d. Linking the Child Labour elimination efforts with the scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to ensure that small children in the age group of 5-8 years get directly linked to school and the older children are mainstreamed to the formal education system through the rehabilitation centres.
e. Strengthening of the formal school mechanism in the area of Child Labour in the country to provide an attractive schooling system to the Child Labour force.
f. Effective provision for health care for all children would be made.
g. Implementation of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act would be made much more effective.
h. The monitoring system would be further systematized with the close involvement of the State Government to ensure that the project is able to attain its objectives within the given period.
i. Equal important would be paid to the aspect of continuous awareness generation though print, folk and electronic media.
j. The task of elimination of Child Labour be placed on the top of the nation's Agenda and given a "Mission Mode".
k. Schemes for the ultimate attainment of the objective of elimination of Child Labour in a time bound manner.
l. Large-scale involvement of the voluntary organizations at the district level to assist in the running of the NCLP schools.
Various issues regarding Child Labour in India:
Issues of Child Labour in India are of great magnitude compared to other developing countries of the world.
1. National Progress:
2. Productive Efficiency:
3. Social Security:
5. Sexual exploitation:
6. Juvenile Justice:
7. Health Care:
8. The wage structure of Adults:
9. Illiteracy and ignorance of parents:
As A response to the problem of Child Labour there are various legislations enacted to prohibit exploitation of Child Labour.
1. Indian Constitutional Law:
The makers of our Constitution had used their vision and wisdom by providing protection and provisions for developments of children. The view was that if the children of the country are not nurtured and educated India Cannot attains progress and development in the true sense.
a. Preamble of the Constitution clearly says that Justice social, economic and political and Equality of Status and of Opportunity. It means no one can deprive children from all opportunities to develop their socio, economic and political status.
b. Article 15(3): State shall make special provisions for women and child.
c. Article 24: Prohibit the employment of Children
d. Article 39(e) (f): State shall safeguard health of children and offered opportunities and education of children.
e. Article 45: Free and compulsory education to children.
f. Article 21(A): Free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14.
2. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948:
It provides for fixation of minimum time rate of wages by state government. It also includes the fixation of minimum piece rate of wages, guaranteed time rates for wages for different occupations and localities or class of work and adult, adolescence, children and apprentices.
3. The Factories Act, 1948:
The Factories Act expressly prohibited Child Labour under its significant provision. This is nothing but a protection given to the child workers against exploitation.
4. The Plantation labour Act, 1951:
The employment of children between the ages of 12 years is prohibited under the Act. However, the act permits the employment of child above 12 years only on a fitness certificate from the appointed surgeon.
5. The Mines Act, 1952:
It states that no child shall be employed in any mines nor shall any child be allowed to be present in any part of mine, which is below ground, or in any open cast working in which any mining operations being carried on.
6. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958:
The act prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 in a ship except a training ship, home ship or a ship where other family members work. It also prohibits employment of young person below the age of 18 as trimmers and stokers except under certain specific conditions.
7. The Children Act, 1960:
This is also important legislation which prohibits employment of children for begging and exploitation of child employee.
8. The Apprentices Act, 1961:
It states that no person shall be qualified for being engaged as an apprentice to undergo apprenticeship training in any designated trade unless he is 14 years of age and satisfied such standards of education and physical fitness as may be prescribed.
9. The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986:
The main object of the said Act is to prohibit the engagement of children in certain employments and regulation of condition of work of children in certain other employments.
10. United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child:
The said declaration dealt with special provisions and facilities to develop physical, mental, moral and social status. Also the right to Social Security and protection against exploitation has given special importance.
The organizations like SAARC, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and UNICEF also took efforts for protection and effective implementation of Child Right conventions.
However having all these mechanisms millions of children engaged in hazardous establishments. The Socio-Economic situation forced children to do work to sustain their family. Moreover negligent attitude of parents towards education is also one of the causes behind problem of Child Labour.
v Judicial Response in the area of Child Labour:
The Supreme Court of India at the apex has been assigned a very important role and constituted as a guardian of Constitution. Our judiciary is an independent organ of the State. They perform a great job of interpretation of Constitutional and Legislative provisions. The Indian Judiciary played pivotal role in the field of Child Welfare.
a. M. C. Mehata Vs. State of Tamil Nadu
Supreme Court while interpreting Article 21 held that right to receive education by child worker until they completed 14 years of Age is an integral part of right to life and personal liberty.
b. P. U. D. R. Vs. Union of India
In this case Supreme Court directed the State Government to amend the schedule of the employment of children Act, 1938. Further Court held that construction work is hazardous occupation.
c. Salal Hydro Project Vs. State of J & K
In this case Child Labour is a difficult problem and it is purely on account of economic problem and it cannot be solved by mere legislation. So long poverty continues the problem of Child Labour eradication is not possible.
d. Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs. Union of India
Supreme Court held that child today should be developed to be a responsible and productive and child should be assured social and physical health.
In conclusion it can be said that the problem of Child Labour exploitation is still burning issue in India. The disease spreading day by day to tackle the problem we have to find proper and effective mechanism. Government of India should form separate mechanism for effective implementation of Education policy in India. The Education policy of Government in existence is not satisfactory not capable to fulfill their economic needs. The negligent behavior of parents indulges children in to work which is one of the risks to their socio-economic status. The various organizations in the area of Child Labour, child right violation, child abuse is taking efforts to protect and eradicate the same, and the Parents of the children make aware that temporary gain is not helpful to their family. The efforts shall be taken from the Government with help of NGOs in the area of small family norms, compulsory education, and so on. The picture is clear that the problem of Child Labour can only eradicate if there is joint efforts of Governmental agencies and NGOs actively working in the same area.
1. Strict implementation of Child Labour legislations and practical and healthy alternatives to replace this evil can go a long way to solve the problem of Child Labour.
2. Application of Compulsory Education policy to curb the problem of Child Labour.
3. Special Social Development programme should be implemented for assistance of domestic workers.
4. Organization of literacy and awareness programme to prevent children from employment.
5. Amendment and Modification into Social Security Legislation governing Child Labour.
6. Control on Population growth to eliminate of Poverty which is basic cause of Child Labour issues.
7. Mandatory on industrialists for equal pay without discrimination as to Age, Status, Religion etc.
8. Adequate health services for children at large living in the society.
9. Need to provide training and education to the child workers during their free time.
# ILO Conventions on Development of Children And Young persons, by Mrs. Jayashree V. Doddawadmath, Legal News and Views, October 2010, Vol 24, No.10
# Justice P.S. Narayana & Anita Gogia, The Laws Relating to Children In India, Gogia law Agency, Hyderabad, 1st Edition, 2007
# Child Labour problems and perspective, Lawz, September, 2011, pp. 16-18
# Justice P.S. Narayana & Anita Gogia, The Laws Relating to Children In India, Gogia law Agency, Hyderabad, 1st Edition, 2007
# Child Labour and Education Policy in India, Shantha Sinha
# STREE SHAKTI, Rights of Women and Children, Sunita Khariwal & Narayan Kumar, Esskay Publishing House, Mumbai, 1st Edition, 2003.
# Dr. S. C. Tripathi, Law relating to Women and Children, Central Law Publications, Allahabad, pp. 371-37
# Durga Das Basu, Comments on The Constitution of India, Lexis Nexis, Butterworth’s Wadhawa, Nagpur, 8th Edition, 2008, Vol.3, pp.3414-3418
# The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
# D. S. Chopra, Commentaries on Factories Act, 1948, Labour Law Agency, Mumbai, 3rd Edition, 2005.
# The Plantation labour Act, 1951
# The Mines Act, 1952
# The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958
# The Children Act, 1960
# The Apprentices Act, 1961
# The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986
# United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child
# AIR 1991, SC 417
# AIR 1982, SC 1473
# AIR 1984 SC 177
# AIR 1997 SC 2218
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org