The Problem of Child Labour in India

Guest Post by Pradeep Kumar Gangwar –

Assistant Professor of Law at the school of C.C.S. University.

child labour kolhapur indiaThe government to India ratified the convention in December 1992 but with the solitary rider in the relation to article 32 due to wide spread poverty and illiteracy which are some of the reason beyond its control. Under this article of the convention it mandates the state parties to 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 heath or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

Get the Gandhi Bracelet and be the change!

Get the Gandhi Bracelet and be the change!

Mr. justice Suba Rao (former chief justice of India) had rightly said that social justice must begin with child unless the tender plaint is properly nourished it has little chance of growing into strong and useful tress so the first priority in the scale of social justice should be given to the welfare of the child and we all know that the child labour is hampering the growth and development of the child but it’s very hard to remove this necessary social evil once Tony Blair had said that our history aim will be for ours to be the first generation to end child poverty and it will take a generation and with this he acknowledged that the problem of child labour is very grievous.

Child labour is the universal problem and it’s very much in picture in developing countries like India. In India poverty had prevented governments from expanding mass education and compulsory education program. There are many instances seen in the past where a large number of child labour are seen working in the industries like match industry of sivakasi , glass industries of Firozabad pottery industry of khurja , gem polishing industry of jaipur or the lock industry of Aligarh etc.

As per the census of India the number of child labours between age group of 5 to 14 years are given below;

1971= 10.75 million

1981= 13.64 million

1991= 11.28 million

2001= 12.66 million

About 5.77 million children can be classified as main workers and the rest 6.88 million as marginal worker. Main workers are those workers who work more than 183 days in a year and Marginal worker are those who work less than 183 days in a year

Constitutional framework and legislation protecting interest of child Labour :

There are number of provision in the constitution of India which speaks about children and their welfare. Starting with the preamble itself the constitution of India promises to secure to all citizens of India (including child) justice, social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. It further provides for equality of status and of equal opportunity and assures dignity to the individuals; enables the state to make special provision for children directs the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6-14 years.prohibits trafficking of human beings and forced labour;prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories, mines or any other hazardous occupations; enjoins the state to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people; directs the state to ensure that children are given opportunities’ and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that the childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment; states that the state shall endeavor to provide easily childhood care and education until they complete the age of six years.

In the face of this kind of constitutional provisions envisaging welfare and development of children, the question of children toiling under hazardous and exploitative conditions do not arise at all, however this isn’t the reality we know of. There are millions of children toiling under inhuman and subhuman conditions in our country.

There are various other legislation which, make a significant contributions in the protecting the exploitation of working children

The factories Act 1948 expressly prohibited Child Labour under Section 67 of the act.

The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 provides that an agreement to pledge the labour of a child shall be void. And under section 2 of the act child was defined as any person under the age of 15 years. This act also provides provision for the penalty for parents and guardian pledging their child.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 has the main object to prohibit the engagement of children in certain employments and to regulate the conditions of work or children in certain other employment’s.

The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966 says that no child shall be required or allowed to work in any industrial premises.

The Plantation Labour Act 1951 says that the child under the age of 12 years are not allowed to work.

What is child labour?

Child Labour is conventionally defined as a working child between age of 5 to 14 years who are doing labour or engaged in economical activity either paid or unpaid or underpaid . But this definition proves insignificant if we see the book where there is the picture of 3 years working in the match box industries so now we have to look for some other definition so let’s see the definition of Child as given under child labour (prohibition and Regulation) act of 1986 this act defines child means a person who has not completed his fourteen years of age so by this definition age question of the child labour is solved.

Child Labour and Right to Education

Child labour and illiteracy go hand in hand as one tends to breed the other. Numerous studies have examined the impact of education on the incidence of child labour . Most of child labours are either illiterate or partially literate. The parents of child labour are also more often not literate and also no study has ever found a child labour coming from an educated family and to prove it we can take example of kerala state where child labour is almost non-existent because the literacy rate is very high.

In case of M.C.Mehta v. State of M.P the court has held that the employment of children in the match factories directly connected with the manufacturing process up to final production of match sticks or fireworks should not at all be permitted. The court held further that children can be employed in the process of packing but packing should be done in area away from the place of manufacture. The minimum wages for child labour should be fixed. It is necessary that special facilities for providing the quality of life of children should be provided. This will require facilities for education, scope of recreation as also providing opportunity for socialization. Facility for general education as also job oriented education should be available and the school time should be so adjusted that employment is not affected.

Article 45 of Directive Principles of the Constitution having made it the duty of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to age fourteen in ten years, the number of out of school children particularly from the disadvantaged groups and those engaged in labour, and those receiving poor quality education has remained very large.

Mohini Jain V State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court held that right to education is fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Article 51-A (k) that it shall be a fundamental duty of every citizen of India who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child/ward between the age of six and fourteen years Because the objectives of democracy, social justice, and equality can be achieved only through the provision of elementary education of equitable quality to all; And whereas it is also imperative to improve the present delivery system of elementary education by, inter alia, greater decentralization of its management, and making it sensitive to the needs of children, especially of those belonging to disadvantaged groups.

The Child Labour is the major problem due to poverty and hampers development by driving wages down putting adult out of works and denying education to the future workforce and so we can say that child Labour is due to poverty and vice versa.

Consequences of Child Labour

Child labour is a concrete manifestation of the violation of the rights of children, especially the right to education and development. Working at a young age has many adverse and direct consequences

Children are deprived of their right to education

Children are deprived of their right to play , leisure and healthy growth

Children are deprived of their free mental, physical, psychological and spiritual growth owing to hazardous nature of their work and over work that is not compatible with their age.

Children are deprived of their childhood itself

Child labour creates and perpetuates poverty.

It condemns the child life of unskilled , badly paid work and

Ultimately leads to child labour with each generation of poor children undercutting wages

So in short we can say that Work at too early age take there right o education, exerts physical, social and psychological stress, work and life on the streets and industries in bad working conditions, inadequate pay, and work also undermines children’s dignity and self esteem such as detrimental to full social and psychological development take away their right to play and enjoy childhood and is also a main cause of putting them as underpaid worker throughout the life.

Reasons for the Child Labour

There are many reasons for the Child Labour problem in India few of the main reasons are highlighted below

(1)Child labours are always better than adult workers because they work for longer time and most of the time underpaid so they are source of cheaper Labour.

(2) Education is not very wide spread with all the sections and all the parts of the country so education is one of the biggest problem which helps in fostering the growth of the child labours in India and we have also seen that failure of various educational scheme also added to the increase in the number of child labour

(3) Unemployment and Underemployment of the parents and major members of the family.

(4) Use of drugs and alcohols by the parents and the guardian of the child also helps in the increase of the child labour.

(5) Homelessness

(6) Wide spread poverty in the country.

(7) Other problems due to single parenthood, population explosion, traditional occupations and parental attitudes, lack of minimum wages etc

Accident of working members of family, illness, single parenthood, nonworking of parents, drinking habits etc in these entire cases child voluntary enters to work to protect his family from starvation but we know that the exploitive child labour is a evil it cannot be uprooted overnight as it is deeply entrenched in the problems of poverty , illiteracy and overpopulation.

We know that there is various numbers of children who are voluntary Labour to help their family. We have also seen in the past that various Compulsory Education program could not make a hallmark to remove the biggest problem of Child Labour because they could not satisfy the call of economic needs of the working child. So there can be learning while earning program which just not gives educational to the child labor but also fulfils there economic needs we can also learn from the steps taken in other countries.

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  1. Thank you. India must not rest until all of her children are freed from the yoke of forced and bonded labour!

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