The first step is to recognise that if you believe that all children should have good health, education, and some form of play or leisure then child labour is unacceptable. Prof Krishna Kumar Director, NCERT, was anguished that even after 100 years of what Gokhale had started, ‘‘We are still discussing the issue of education and we are nowhere near that goal of achieving education for all.’’
Child labour: It is a scary problem in today’s world. If we analyze it we may well find idea a bit paradoxical. Parents want the child to work and fetch some pennies to meet the crushing poverty in the family. It is quite shocking to learn that most families from which child labour is provided almost always depend on the children’s income. On that score child labour seems inevitable for it sustains many a family. But to see a child being deprived of the basic education, joy of life and impulse for growth must be viewed with concern by us. The problem needs a rethink for we cannot afford to push the problem under carpet in context of the socio-economic terrain that has opened out in our country.
Why child labour:- Magsaysayaward winner and Chairperon, National Commission for protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Shantha Sinha feels no serious effort has been made to make children go to school. To protect children rights issues of nutrition and education should form the core of any government policy. India has the largest number of children out of school. It also has the largest number of children’s work force. In every village there are a number of poor parents who are seen to send their children to school while even better off ones are seen to dump their children to work places that earn them some doles of sustenance. Actually there is no poverty line below which all parents are compelled to send their children to school. This is a pure myth. For generations the poor have been led to believe that it is their lot to labour. Children with education will become useless for labour as well as for any other work. It is much easier for someone in the village to engage his child in work even as bonded labour than put him in school. It is natural to argue that children are employed because they need the income and that their quality of life as a domestic child labour is far superior to the child being with own family submerged in poverty and hunger. Child labourers are engaged in various factories and activities in India so as to reap maximum benefits out of it. As the child labour is comparatively cheap, hence they are preferred much in small scale industries. Move rover extreme poverty and marginal income force the poor family in India to engage the child in laborious work.
What step to be taken to prohibit child labour: The problem has not only assumed serious proportion, it is growing in magnitude day to day. As per article 24 in the Indian Constitution, no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any institution, factories, and mines or engaged in any hazardous activity. This is one of the fundamental rights which is included under sub-heading Right against Exploitation.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, defined a child as a boy or girl who has not attained the age of 14 years. In order to protect the health and also for the safety of the children, this rule addresses engagement of children in certain specified places of employment like mines, collieries, automobile, workshop, and garages etc, or working in a type of workshop where bidi-making, match making, agarbatti, explosive and fireworks etc are involved. As per provisions of this act, no child is allowed to get employment or permitted to work in thirteen different such occupations and fifty one such processes. In a few different other places of employment, children are even permitted to work with certain restrictions. These include a child should not be allowed to work for more than six hours a day with an intermittent rest of at least an hour and the child will enjoy a holiday of a complete day every week. But surprisingly, in contravention to the aforesaid law, a huge number of child laboures are daily being utilised for various types of activity violating all necessary norms involved in the act.
The ILO observed recently, in India for the year 2000 there would be 13,157,000 economically active children, 5,992,000 girls and 7,165,000 boys between the age 10-14 years representing 12.07 per cent of tin age group.
According to a report prepared by UNESCO, nearly 6 per cent of children in India between the age group of 5 and 14 years are working as labourers in various formal sectors, although the government is considering making primary education a fundamental right. The report submitted by the UN agency entitled ‘‘Situational Analysis of Educaiton for Street and Working Children inIndia’’ observed that over 1.39 crore children in the age group of 5-14 years were working as child labourers. Criticising the government for lack of political will for ensuring compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years, the UNESCO report observed that ‘‘poor educational infrastructure in the villages is the major hurdle in eradicating the problem of child labour. The World Bank also leads the Educaiton for all fast track Initiative facilitating additional resource mobilisation to fill financing gaps for developing countries. Secondly, there is the overall Dakar Education for All (EFA) goal, with UNESCO as the lead agency. UNICEF is also undertaking major initiatives to bring girl children into school. Thirdly, the international Labour Organisation is involved in putting an end to the worst forms of child labour through its convention 182.
However, coordination and integration among the three processes are very rare in relation to multilateral and bilateral aid developing countries are supposed to implement, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and country plans. Ironically, child labour eradication hardly figures in the (PRSP) of any country.
Being a complex problem, it will require a consistent long term effort, with broad-based strategies that ensure the long term goal of eradication of child labour. Eradicating child labour needs to be seen alongside the commitment to universalisaiton of education, so critical for the country’s economic and social development. Actions need to be taken by the law enforcers, the (employers) corporates and individuals as well as civil society at large. The first step is to recognise that if you believe that all children should have good health, education, and some form of play or leisure then child labour is unacceptable. Prof Krishna Kumar Director, NCERT, was anguished that even after 100 years of what Gokhale had started, ‘‘We are still discussing the issue of education and we are nowhere near that goal of achieving education for all.’’
Importantly, all action to stop child labour should be implemented taking the child’s best interest into account, e.g. the family situation, level of schooling, social situation etc. Attention should be given that the child is not merely moved from one labour situation to another but to ensure rehabilitation, education and development of the child. ‘‘Are we criticized society” asked Prof Yash Pal, former chairmen of the UGC. No country in the world denies its children education. The middle class is the main problem in our society today and that is the reason why problem like child labour and illiteracy continue to breed and perpetuate.
Sarvshikha Abhiyan (SSA) is a major ongoing initiative to universalise elementary education by community ownership of the school system. It is a response to demand for quality basic education all over the country. For the implementation of Education For All, each country is supposed to make concrete and time bound national action plans to achieve the goals by 2015. But poverty reduction programmes in most countries do not have strong linkage with EFA.
The present system of education is aggravating handicap of poor children leading to widening of the gap between the rich and the poor. Again the lower middle class parents are also finding it very difficult to meet the cost of good education of their wards. The increasing cost of education along with chronic and seasonal unemployment aggravates the conditions prevailing in rural India, leading to huge drop-out among the middle and high school student.
Under the present context, the best way to prevent the evil is by insisting on spreading primary education among those children involved and to enforce strict family planning norms. The problem can be tackled by taking steps like (a) setting up of residential camps, (b) bridge course centres, (c) setting up of anganvadi cum creche facilities and also (d) by involving all NGOs to come together and work in this direction with the active support of all government departments.