“Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.”
While the above was written in a different context, it holds true for what is to follow. The condition of children in India is only same as to what it was a couple of years ago. Poverty ridden India has not made much progress when it comes to eradicating child labour and that still remains a contested topic. Labour laws, upon being repeatedly altered have not left much room for relaxation in Child Labour Laws. A relatively poor and developing India has always turned to its untapped human resource pool, the children. Not many children in India are lucky enough to experience that phase of life one calls childhood. Khaled Hosseini, in the same book, wrote “There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.” In spite of being geographically different, the condition of rural Indian children stands testimony to the little childhood in India as well. These children are forced to work under inhuman conditions where their miseries know no end. Having laws in place banning child labour has been of little or no effect and children continue to be exploited as cheap labourers. Implementation of these laws has been on the downside and hence child labour remains one of the crucial issue preventing India from reaching its full potential.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is one of the most debated acts regarding children and their employment in India. It outlines where and how children can or cannot work. The provisions of the act are meant to be acted upon immediately after the publication of the Act except Part III which discusses the conditions in which a child may work. Part III can only come into effect as per a date appointed by the Central government. While the Act is in place and it defines relevant laws concerning child labour and protection of child labour, grassroot realities have a contrasting picture.
According to a recent report titled ‘Report on Child Labour’, released by CRY Foundation, more than 8 lakh children between the age group of 5 and 6 years in India are engaged in some or the other form of child labour. Among the various states in India, UP ranks first in the number of child labourers (a rough estimate of 2,50,672 children) in the country followed by Bihar (1,28,087 children) and Maharashtra (82,847 children). This report has identified that the high level of poverty and unemployment along with a lack of adequate social security net are the important factors forcing children to work. These children are often forced to migrate with their parents and assist in family occupations such as working in brick kilns. In the decade 2010-11, the working children in the age group of 10-14 years saw a reduction of 30% but the child labourers in the age group of 5-9 years have seen an increase of 37% from 2001.
According to International Labour Organisation’s report, number of children engaged in some or the other form of child labour globally, has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million children. More than half of them, 85 million fall under the hazardous category. However, this figure has been a declining one as compared to the ones in 2000 which were 171 million. Asia and Pacific still have the highest numbers lying at almost 78 million or 9.3% of child population but Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour at 59 million or over 21% of the world population. Asia and Pacific, being the highest recruiter of child labour finds its roots and reasons in the long standing history and majority of developing nations. With strict economic reforms and protectionism taking over the world political scenario, the focus is more at domestic production and development of the human resource to capitalise on the demographic dividend. Owing to this, the numbers are dropping but the situation still remains severe.
What the social sector does is merely provide the opportunity and platform for equitable living conditions. Once these organisations have enabled these children to be on their own, the government policies are not conducive to their further growth and that hampers the growth of our potential human resource. In order to effectively utilise it, the government must ensure that once these children are freed from the shackles of child labour, a well laid-out system of provisions and career opportunities must be in order to prevent them from falling back into it.
In this regard, the Prime Minister’s Skill India Program is a welcome step. While it is still at the nascent stage, the initiative aims at empowering the raw worker and aid them in getting a particular skill set so that may be put to use in a specific industry. With the emphasis on manufacturing process to be entirely based in India in the near future, Skill India seems to be a step in the right direction as more and more importance is being given to the idea of an Indian Culture and revisiting of traditional roots. While it is still a wait and watch situation, progress seems on the cards.
Image Source: https://www.iaspaper.net/child-labour/