Child labour is a social malice that stches the most innocent phase of human life - childhood. It denotes the employment of children in economic activities that suppress their dignity and potentiality. Children of below 14 years are forced to do labour work in extreme hazardous conditions and paid a penny amount as wages for their tireless long hours of work. The problem of child labour is a serious concern not only in India but also in other developing countries. It is a great social problem and India, sadly, is the home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. It is any economic activity performed by someone younger than the age 15.
Child labour is a curse for a country like India where over 12 million children are engaged in various areas of economic activities. Among them, some children are working in extreme hazardous conditions in various sectors like fireworks, various chemical processing units, coal mining etc. Besides, a large number of children are engaged in domestic services often hidden from the public eye. It is estimated that there are 15.5 million child domestic worker worldwide and 19 per cent of child labourers in India work as domestic help.
Again children are being kidpped and sold in the market. A huge child trafficking racket is operating all over India. Children are abducted and supplied for various reasons such as labour, beggary and sexual exploitation. Lakhs of children are going missing every year in India and most of them are never found.
Poverty and lack of social security are the main causes of child labour. The ever swelling gap between the rich and the poor, privatization of basic services and the neo- liberal economic policies lead to unemployment and devoid of basic needs. This adversely affects children more than any other group. Advent of multitiol corporations without proper mechanism prefers which employ child workers is another factor. Lack of quality universal education has also forced children to drop out of school and to enter the labour force. A major concern is that the actual number of child labourers goes undetected. Laws that are meant to protect children from hazardous labour are ineffective and not implemented properly.
Children, mostly girls, working as domestic labourers are often compelled to work without food and very low wages. There are cases of physical, sexual and emotiol abuse of child domestic workers. According to HAQ centre for child rights, the number of child labourers is highest among lower castes and minority children.
Child labour now becomes an inevitable factor that greatly hampers the tion building process in India. A tiol policy on child labour was formulated in 1987 and the Government of India has taken several initiatives to completely eradicate child labour. However, considering it as a necessary evil, the Government of India on May 2015, made an amendment to the child labour law, allowing children below 14 years of age to work only in domestic enterprises or entertainment industry. The amendments also make it clear that children below 14 to 18 years will not be allowed to work in hazardous industries. But it is not easily possible to eradicate the evils of child labour in India. In fact, long term measures to alleviate poverty and illiteracy, create enormous job and self-help opportunities, agricultural development and compulsory primary education are to be taken to combat the mece of child labour effectively. However, high levels of corruption, inefficiency in law, red tapism, administrative deficiency and lack of political will always hinder the effective implementation of government policies in this regard and it greatly benefits the employers who can earn more profit by reducing general wage levels.
Again the persistence of child labour cannot be controlled only through government legislation, all-round awareness and co-operation from the society is utmost necessary where people must stand up and support various movements and policies against child labour. Voluntary and independent movements like Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and Save the Children (India) have been remarkably working to end child labour, child trafficking and to provide free education and health services to children. Since 1980, BBA has rescued 85,042 children from bonded labour and slavery till date.
In recent times because of the efforts of various voluntary organizations, the government and common people, the number of child labourers engaged in various companies, hotels and domestic households has gone down, although it is not a remarkable decline in overall child labour rate.
To sum up, child labour is a social evil that became the source of various other socio-economic problems like poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. Hence is it conducive to think of a Digital India when one out of 13 children is a victim of child labour? But we can hope for the best.