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Children are the future of the country and they need specials protection because of their age, physical and mental faculties. In a civilized society the importance of child cannot be over emphasized, because the welfare of the entire community, its growth and development, depends on the health and well being of its children. Children are a supremely more important national asset and the future well being of as nation depends upon how its children grow and develop.
The child of today cannot develop to be a responsible and productive member of tomorrow's society unless an environment which is conducive to his social and physical health is assured to him.
Every nation, developed or developing, links its future with the status of the child. Childhood holds the potential and also sets the limit to the future development of the society. Children are the greatest gift to humanity. Mankind has the best hold of itself. The parents themselves live for them. They embody the joy of life in them and in the innocence relieving the fatigue and drudgery in their struggle of daily life. Parents regain peace and happiness in the company of the children. The children signify eternal optimism in the human being and always provide the potential for human development. If the children are better equipped with a broader human output, the society will feel happy with them.
Neglecting the children means loss to the society as a whole. If children are deprived of their childhood - socially, economically, physically and mentally - the nation gets deprived of the potential human resources for social progress, economic empowerment and peace and order, the social stability and good citizenry. The Founding Fathers of the Constitution, therefore, have emphasized the importance of the role of the child and the need of its best development. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who was far ahead of his time in his wisdom, projected these rights in the Directive principles including the children as beneficiaries. Their deprivation has deleterious effect on the efficacy of the democracy and the rule of law.
Practice of child labour in India is very old. It has been in existence in our country since time immemorial in one form or the other. Who does not know the existence of the practice of child labour in Carpet Industry, Match and fire works industry in Sivakashi; stone quarrying, Bras Work in Moradabad, Glass Bangle Industry in Firozabad, Zari making work in Lucknow, Lock making industry in Aligarh.
We daily come across in existence of such a practice in other sectors too such as restaurants, dhabas, domestic servants, coolies etc. working conditions of such labour are pitiable. Most of them belong to illiterate ignorant, poor, weaker and oppressed section of the society.
The system of child labour is a scale of the economy of a country, a curse to the children and a stigma on the forehead of so-called modern and civilized society. the system of child labour in India is ab inito, but it continue, even today, and the childhood of millions of children is being crushed in the modern race of modernity.
Child labourer: The children, who are engaged as physical or mental labourers in an industry, agriculture or profession, are called, child labourers.
Section 2(ii) of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 defines child as 'A person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age.' Most of the child labourers are employed in agricultural works in villages, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestation, tree plantation and agricultural based cottage industries. Here, child labour are engaged in house-jobs, shops, hotels, restaurants, small and large industries, means of transport and communications etc. besides this most of the children are engaged in boot-polish work, milk selling, newspaper selling, drawing rickshaws, hawkering, begging and other activities, such as hose-building, brick furnace, road building, etc. they are compelled to earn their livelihood at the cost of their mild childhood.
Our Constitution makers, wise and sagacious as they were, had known that India of their vision would not be a reality if the children of the country are not nurtured and educated. For this, their exploitation by different profit makers for their personal gain had to be first indicted. It is this need, which has found manifestation in Article 24, which is one of these two provisions in Part IV of our Constitution on the fundamental right against exploitation. The framers were aware that this prohibition alone would not permit the child to contribute its mite to the nation building work unless it receives at least basic education. Article 45 was therefore inserted in our paramount parchment casting a duty on the state to endeavor to provide free and compulsory education to children.
Convention On The Rights Of The ChildIt would be apposite to apprise ourselves also about our commitment to world community for the for the case at hand it would be enough to note that India has accepted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. This convention affirms that children's rights require special protection and it aims, not only to provide such protection, but also to ensure the continuous improvement in the situation of the children all over the world, as well as their development and education in conditions of peace and security.
Thus the convention not only protects the child's civil and political rights but also extends protection to child's economical, social, cultural and humanitarian rights.
Article 3 provides that in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.
Article 32, which is material for the purpose, reads as under:(1) State parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
(2) State parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation of the present article. To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of other international instruments, State parties shall in particular,
(a) provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admission to employment;
(b) provide for appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment;
(c) provide for appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of the present article.
Universal Declaration of Human RightsArticle 26(1) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights assures that everyone has the right to education, which shall be free, at least at the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made available and higher education shall equally be accessible to all on the basis of merit. Education enables development of human personality and strengthens the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It promotes understanding, tolerance and friendship among people. It is, therefore, the duty of the State to provide facilities and opportunities to the children driven to child labour to develop their personality as responsible citizens.
Article 27(1) provides that the State parties recognise the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Article 28 provides thus:1. State parties recognise the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:
(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;
(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;
(c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;
(d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children;
(e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of dropout rates.
2. State parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity and in conformity with the present convention.
3. State parties shall promote and encourage international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods in this regard. Particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.
Article 31(1) recognises the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
Article 36 states that State parties shall protect the child against all other forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of the child's welfare.
Declaration of The Rights of The ChildThere has been equally great concern for the welfare of children at the international level culminating in the Declaration of the Rights of The Child
Principle 2 reads as:
The child shall enjoy special protection and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.
Principle 9 reads as:
The child shall be protected against al forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic, in any form.
International Labour OrganizationInternational Labour Organization, 1919 (hereinafter referred to as ILO) had felt that there should be international guidelines by which the employment of children under a certain age could be regulated in industrial undertakings. May it be stated that the ILO is playing an important role in the process of gradual elimination of child labour and to protect child from industrial exploitation. It has focused five main issues:
1. Prohibition of child labour.
2. Protecting child labour at work.
3. Attacking the basic causes of child labour.
4. Helping children to adapt to future work.
5. Protecting the children of working parents.
Constitution Of India, 1950Article 21 mandates that No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
The bane of the poverty is the root of child labour and the children are being subjected to deprivation of their meaningful right to life, leisure, food, shelter, medical aid and education. Every child shall have, without any discrimination on the ground of caste, birth, colour, sex, language, religion, social origin, property or birth alone, right to health, well being, education and social protection.
Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of the children in factories etc. so that No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
Article 39(e) of the Constitution enjoins that The State shall direct its policy towards securing the health and strength of workers, men and women; and the children of tender age will not be abused; the citizens should not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
Article 39(f) enjoins that The State shall direct its policy towards securing that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and their childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Article 45 mandates that The State shall endeavour to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.
The period of ten years provided therein has lost its relevance since as on date, more than 78 million out of 405 million children, 78% of them are employed between the age of 5 to 14 years without any basic and elementary education, health, access to nutrient food and leisure.
Article 47 mandates that The State shall regard the raising of the level of the nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of the public health as among its primary duties in particular Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India And Others AIR 1997 SC 2218.
Facts: In this case a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution had been filed by way of public interest litigation seeking issue of a writ of mandamus directing the Government to take steps to stop employment of children in Carpet Industry in the State of Uttar Pradesh; to appoint a Committee to investigate into their conditions of employment; and to issue such welfare directives as are appropriate for total prohibition on employment of children below 14 years and directing the respondents to give them facilities like education, health, sanitation, nutritious food, etc.
Petitioner's ContentionThe primary contention by the petitioner on behalf of the children below the age of 14 years, is that the employment of children by various carpet weavers in Varanasi, Mirzapur, Jaunpur and Allahabad areas is violative of the constitutional provisions i.e. employment of the children in any industry or in a hazardous industry, is violative of Article 24 of the Constitution and derogatory to the mandates contained in Articles 39(e) and (f) and 45 of the Constitution read with the Preamble.
Appointment of committee
Pursuant to the filing of the writ petition, this Court appointed Prem Bhai and others to visit factories manufacturing carpets and to submit their findings as to whether any number of children below the age of 14 years are working in the carpet industry etc. The Commissioner submitted his preliminary report. Subsequently, by Order dated 1-8-1991, this Court appointed a Committee consisting of Shri J. P. Vergese, Ms. Gyansudha Mishra and Dr. K. P. Raju to go around Mirzapur area and other places where carpets are being weaved to find out whether children are being exploited and to submit a comprehensive report. In furtherance thereof, a comprehensive report was submitted on 18-11-1991.
The report of the Committee discloses the enormity of the problem of exploitation to which the children are subjected. Children ranging between 5 to 12 years having been kidnapped from Village Chhichhori (Patna Block, District Palamau in Bihar) in January and February 1984 in three batches and were taken to Village Bilwari in Mirzapur District of U.P. for being engaged in carpet-weaving centres. They are forced to work all day. Virtually, they are being treated as slaves and are subjected to physical torture revealed by the presence of marks of violence on their person.
The Commission/Committee visited 42 villages and found in all 884 looms engaging 42% of the work force with the children below the age of 14 years. The total number of children are 369; 95% of them are of tender age ranging between 6 to 11 years and most of them belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Despite persuasion, they could not be released and continue to languish under bondage. The Commission visited several villages, personally contacted the parents of the children in different places and found that the children were taken against their wishes and are wrongfully forced to work as bonded labour in the carpet industries. They have furnished the list of the children whom they contacted and the list of the carpet industries whereat the children were found engaged.
(1) Whether the employment of the children below the age of 14 years is violative of Article 24?
(2) Whether the omission on the part of the State to provide welfare facilities and opportunities deprives them of the constitutional mandates contained in Articles 45, 39(e) and (f), 21, 14 etc.?
We are of the view that a direction needs to be given that the Government of India should convene a meeting of the Ministers concerned of the respective State Governments and their Principal Secretaries holding Departments concerned, to evolve the principles of policies for progressive elimination of employment of the children below the age of 14 years in all employments governed by the respective enactments to evolve such steps consistent with the scheme laid down in M. C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu to provide:
(1) Compulsory education to all children either by the industries themselves or in coordination with it by the State Government to the children employed in the factories, mine or any other industry, organized or unorganized labour with such timings as is convenient to impart compulsory education, facilities for secondary, vocational profession and higher education;
(2) Apart from education, periodical health check-up;
(3) Nutrient food etc.;
(4) Entrust the responsibilities for implementation of the principles. Periodical reports of the progress made in that behalf be submitted to the Registry of this Court. The Central Government is directed to convene the meeting within two months from the date of receipt of the order. After evolving the principles, a copy thereof is directed to be forwarded to the Registry of this Court.
In Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education v. K. S. Gandhi, right to education at the secondary stage was held to be a fundamental right.
In Unni Krishnan, J. P. v. State of A.P a Constitution Bench had held education up to the age of 14 years to be a fundamental right; right to health has been held to be a fundamental right; right to potable water has been held to be a fundamental right; meaningful right to life has been held to be a fundamental right. The child is equally entitled to all these fundamental rights.
It would, therefore, be incumbent upon the State to provide facilities and opportunity as enjoined under Article 39(e) and (f) of the Constitution and to prevent exploitation of their childhood due to indigence and vagrancy. As stated earlier, their employment - either forced or voluntary - is occasioned due to economic necessity; exploitation of their childhood due to poverty, in particular, the poor and the deprived sections of the society, is detrimental to democracy and social stability, unity and integrity of the nation.
Sheela Barse And Others v. Union Of India Others AIR 1986 SC 1773
In this case, the Supreme Court made an order issuing various directions in regard to physically and mentally retarded children as also abandoned or destitute children who are lodged in various jails in the country for 'safe custody'. We also directed the Director General of Doordarshan as also the Director General of All India Radio to give publicity seeking cooperation of non-governmental social service organizations in the task of rehabilitation of these children. We were extremely pained and anguished that these children should be kept in jail instead be being properly looked after, given adequate medical treatment and imparted training in various skills which make them independent and self-reliant. Some years ago we came out with a National Policy for the Welfare of Children, which contained the following perambulatory declaration:
1. The nation's children are a supremely important asset. Their nurture and solicitude are our responsibility. Children's programmes should find a prominent part in our national plans for the development of human resources, so that our children grow up to become robust citizens, physically fit, mentally alert and morally healthy, endowed with the skill and motivations needed by society. Equal opportunities for development to all children during the period of growth should be our aim, for this would serve our large purpose of reducing inequality and ensuring social justice. If a child is a national asset, it is the duty of the State to look after the child with a view to ensuring full development of its personality. That is why all the statutes dealing with children provide that a child shall not be kept in jail. . Even where children are accused of offences, they must not be kept in jails. It is no answer on the part of the State to say that it has not got enough number of remand homes or observation homes or other places where children can be kept and that are why they are lodged in jails.
2. The problem of detention of children accused of an offence would become much more easy of solution if the investigation by the police and the trial by the magistrate could be expedited. Really speaking, the trial of children must take place in the Juvenile Courts and not in the regular criminal courts. There are special provisions enacted in various statutes relating to children providing for trial by Juvenile Courts in accordance with a special procedure intended to safeguard the interest and welfare of children, but, we find that in many of the States there are no Juvenile Courts functioning at all and where there are Juvenile Courts, they are nothing but a replica of the ordinary criminal courts, only the label being changed. We wish to impress upon the State Governments with all the earnestness at our command, that they must set up Juvenile Courts, one in each district.
3. We would also direct that where a complaint is filed or FIR is lodged against a child below the age of 16 years for an offence punishable with imprisonment of not more than 7 years, the investigation shall be completed within a period of three months from the date of filing of the complaint or lodging of the first information report and if the investigation in not completed within this time, the case against the child must be treated as closed. If within three months, the charge-sheet is filed against the child in case of an offence punishable with imprisonment of not more than 7 years, the case must be tried and disposed of within a further period of 6 months at the outside and this period should be inclusive of the time taken up in committal proceedings, if any. If that is not done, the prosecution against the child must be liable to be quashed.
4. We would suggest that instead of each State having its own Childrens' Act different in procedure and content from the Children's' Act in other States, it would be desirable if the Central Government initiates Parliamentary Legislation on the subject, so that there is complete uniformity in regard to the various provisions relating to children in the entire territory of the country. Such legislations should also contain mandatory provisions for ensuring social, economic and psychological rehabilitation of the children who are either accused of offences or are abandoned our destitute or lost.
Supreme Court in Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India interpreted:
... It is the fundamental right of every one in this country, assured under the interpretation given to Article 21 by this Court in Francis Mullin case, to live with human dignity, free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Articles 41 and 42 and at the least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of workers, men and women, and of the tender age of children against abuse, opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, education facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
Statutory ProvisionsAs on today, the following legislative enactments are in force prohibiting employment of child labourers in different occupations:
I. Section 67 of the Factories Act, 1948:Prohibition of employment of young children-No child who has not completed his fourteenth year shall be required or allowed to work in any factory.
II. Section 109 of Merchant Shipping Act, 1951:Employment of children---No person under fourteen years if age shall be engaged or carried to sea to work in any capacity in any ship, except-
(a) In a school ship, or training ship, in accordance with the prescribed conditions; or
(b) In a ship in which all persons employed are members of one family; or
(c) In a home trade ship of less than two hundred tons gross; or
(d) Where such person is to be employed on nominal wages and will be in the charge of his father or other adult near male relative.
III. Section 45 of Mines Act, 1952:Prohibition of the presence of persons below eighteen years of age in mine--Subject to the provisions of sub section 2 of Section 40, after such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint in this behalf, no person below eighteen years of age shall be allowed to present in any part of a mine above ground where any operation connected with or incidental to any mining operation is being carried on.
IV. Section 21 of Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961:Prohibition of employment of children---No child shall be required or allowed to work in any capacity in any motor transport undertaking.
V. Section 3 of Apprentices Act, 1961:Qualifications for being as an apprentice---A person shall not be qualified for being engaged as an apprentice to undergo apprenticeship training in any designated trade, unless he -
(a) is not less than fourteen years of age, and
(b) satisfies such standards of education and physical fitness as may be prescribed.
VI. Section 24 of Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966:Prohibition of employment of children - No child shall be required or allowed to work in any industrial premises.
VII. Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986:The aforesaid enactment is ex facie, a bold step. Section 3 of this Act has prohibited employment of children in certain occupations and processes.
Part A of the Schedule to the Act contains the names of the occupations in which no child can be employed or permitted to work.
(5) Occupations-- any occupation connected with:
1. Transport of passengers, goods or mails by railway;
2. Cinder picking, clearing of an ash pit or building operation in the railway premises;
3. Work in a catering establishment at a railway station involving the movement of a vendor or any other employee of the establishment from one platform to another or into or out of a moving train;
4. Work relating to the construction of a railway station or with any other work where such work is done in close proximity to or between the railway lines; and
5. A port authority within the limits of any port.
2. Carpet weaving;
3. Cement manufacture, including bagging of cement;
4. Cloth printing, dyeing and weaving;
5. Manufacture of matches, explosives and fireworks;
6. Mica-cutting and spitting;
7. Shellac manufacture;
8. Soap manufacture;
11. Building and construction industry.
Section 14 of the Act has provided for punishment up to one year (minimum being 3 months) or with fine up to Rs. 20,000 (minimum being 10,000) or with both, to one who employs or permits any child to work in contravention of provisions in Section 3.
Recommendations Of CommitteeGurupad Swami Committee
Gurupad Swami's Committee examined child labour problem in detail, thereafter, it submitted its report. This committee accepted that there does exist the problem of child labour. In its report, it made certain recommendations and from those some, which are pertinent to mention here are as follows:
1. Labour laws be strictly enforced to bring down the prevalence of child labour.
2. Strong political will for elimination of child labour is a must to combat the evil of child labour. Any programme made towards this end must be effectively implemented.
3. Adult literacy Programmes be made and implemented to educate the parents of the child worker.
4. Compulsory primary education to children be provided.
5. Non-formal education center be opened for child labour. They can attend their classes while they are on leave or off from their duties.
6. Compulsory primary education to children be provided.
7. Non-formal education centre be opened for child labour. They can attend their classes while they are on leave or are off from their duties.
8. The concept to start educational programme for child labour will indeed prove to be beneficial to child labour in the country. The National Child Labour Project (N.CL.P.) aims at non-formal education, vocational training and supply of supplementary nutrition to child labour in Hazardous Industries. Our Government has rightly linked the child labour programme to district planning and has extended district primary education project.
9. The National Child Labour Project Schools should be recognised for purpose of admission to regular schools upto the age of 14 years. They should also be provided with stipends and nutrition to encourage them.
10. Survey should regularly be conducted to identify children working in hazardous Industries. Information received in this regard be passed on to the local authorities to take appropriate action.
11. Necessary and suitable measures be adopted to prevent re entry of the children in hazardous industries.
12. Active involvement of N.G.O's be made to combat the problem. They may work to create awareness and get child workers a better deal. They may prove to be very helpful in identification of child labour concentration area. Through regular inter-action their service may be availed of in this area which may include policy formulation and implementation of legislation passed on the subject. It is gratifying to note that N.G.O's are very active in this area in our country.
13. Co-operation strategy be formulated between the Government authorities, International agencies and N.G.O's operating in this area.
14. Establishment of employment centres and counseling centre for payments of child workers be made.
15. Evils of practice of prevalence of child labour be disseminated in the society at each and every level. Public awareness on the subject is need of the hour.
16. Attention of Legislature, Executive and Judiciary alone will not do to combat the problem; Social reformists, Academicians, and N.G.O's and all others who care for the growth and development of the nation too should come out in all round attack of the problem.
17. Time bound programme be made to eradicate poverty which it the root cause for the evil.
National Human Rights CommissionThe National Human Rights Commission has expressed the unequivocal view that the problem of child labour will persist until the free compulsory education for all upto the age of 14 years is realized. It has further observed that despite the provision of Article 45 of the Indian Constitution, the grim reality is that today the number of illiterates in the country exceed the entire population of the country at the time of independence. For making primary education compulsory, there is need for strong political will.
Government PoliciesUnder the Child Labour Policy of 1987, the arrangement has been done to save the children from exploitation their education, medical treatment, means of recreation and emphasis on general development programmes. Besides this, in 7th and 8th Five Year Plans also, the Government of India has begun many particular projects like rehabilitation for upliftment of child labours, informal education, professional training, supplementary nutritional diet, and health care, etc. In 1995-96 Rs. 34.10 crore have been provided to eradicate child labour system.
Besides the Government, many non-government voluntary organizations are apt for the welfare of child labours. U.N.I.C.E.F., International agencies and Government of India help these organizations. In this direction, M. Vekatchelaia Foundation, Ruchika Samaj Sevak Sangh and volunteer child welfare organisations like Vivekananda Siksha Society have contributed for eradication of child labour and development of children engaged in industrial, urban and rural areas, Unfortunately, despite of these, government and Non-Governmental methods and efforts, the stigma of child labour has not been topped. A National Authority For Elimination Of Child Labour (NAECL) has been constituted for elimination of child labour in hazardous industries by 2000. at present about 2 million child labour is estimated to be employed in hazardous industries and substantial resources i.e. Rs. 850 crores have been allocated towards this goal.
Over 1050 child labourers employed in various industries in 12 States in the country are reported to have participated in a National Convention on Child Labour held in the month of December 1994 in Madras. They demanded compulsory education for all children. They said they were forced to work, as their parents were unable to find jobs and wanted free textbooks, uniforms and food so that their parents would willingly send them to schools. Children called for a public awareness campaign against child labour so that parents would know that sending children to work was illegal.
Causes of FailureIt is to be seen as to why is it that child labour has continued despite the aforesaid statutory enactments. This has been a subject of study by a good number of authors. According to an author , the causes of failure are:
(2) Low wages of the adult;
(4) Absence of schemes for family allowance;
(5) Migration to urban areas;
(6) Large families but family income being less;
(7) Children being cheaply available;
(8) Non-existence of provisions for compulsory education;
(9) Illiteracy and ignorance of parents; and
(10) Traditional attitudes.
Of the aforesaid causes, it seems that poverty is the basic reason, which compels parents of a child, despite their unwillingness, to get it employed. Otherwise, no parents, specially no mother, would like that a tender-aged child should toil in a factory in a difficult condition, instead of it enjoying its childhood at home under the paternal gaze.
IlliteracyIlliteracy has many adverse effects in a democracy governed by rule of law. A free educated citizen could meaningfully exercise his political rights, discharge social responsibilities satisfactorily and develop a spirit of tolerance and reform. Therefore, education is compulsory. Primary education to the children, in particular, to the child from poor, weaker sections, Dalits and Tribes and minorities is mandatory. The basic education and employment-oriented vocational education should be imparted so as to empower the children within these segments of the society to retrieve them from poverty and, thus, develop basic abilities, skills and capabilities to live a meaningful life for economic and social empowerment. Compulsory education, therefore, to these children is one of the principal means and primary duty of the State for stability of the democracy, social integration and to eliminate social tensions.
(1) While exploitation of the child must be progressively banned, other simultaneous alternatives to the child should be evolved including providing education, health care, nutrient food, shelter and other means of livelihood with self-respect and dignity of person. Immediate ban of child labour would be both unrealistic and counter-productive. Ban of employment of children must begin from most hazardous and intolerable activities like slavery, bonded labour, trafficking, prostitution, pornography and dangerous forms of labour and the like.
(2) A direction needs to be given that the Govt. of India should convene a meeting of the Ministers concerned of the respective State Governments and their Principal Secretaries holding Departments concerned, to evolve the principles of policies for progressive elimination of employment of the children below the age of 14 years in all employments governed by the respective enactments mentioned in this paper along with other legislative enactments.
(3) Compulsory education to all children either by the industries themselves or in coordination with it by the State Govt. to the children employed in the factories, mine or any other industry, organized or unorganized labour with such timings as is convenient to impart compulsory education, facilities for secondary, vocational profession and higher education.
(4) Periodical reports of the progress made in that behalf be submitted to the government.
¢ Various welfare enactments made by Parliament and the appropriate State Legislatures are only teasing illusions and a promise of unreality unless they are effectively implemented and make the right to life to the child driven to labour a reality, meaningful and happy. Article 24 of the Constitution prohibits employment of the child below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment, but it is a hard reality that due to poverty the child is driven to be employed in a factory, mine or hazardous employment.
¢ Pragmatic, realistic and constructive steps and actions are required to be taken to enable the child belonging to poor, weaker sections, Dalits and Tribes and minorities, enjoy their childhood and develop their full blossomed personality - educationally, intellectually and culturally with a spirit of inquiry, reform and enjoyment of leisure.
¢ Child labour, therefore, must be eradicated through well-planned, poverty-focused alleviation, development and imposition of trade actions in employment of the children etc. Total banishment of employment may drive the children and mass them up into destitution and other mischievous environment, making them vagrant, hard criminals and prone to social risks etc.
¢ Despite the above, the stark reality is that in our country, children are exploited lot. Child labour is a big problem and has remained intractable, even after 57 years of our having become independent despite various legislative enactments prohibiting employment of a child in a number of occupations and avocations.
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