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Child Labour: India

Prof HS Mishra
India, the largest democracy in the world, paradoxically bears the scourge of having tens of millions of child labourers  living a life of bondage and slavery.  Use of children as labourers is rampant not only in the agriculture sector but also  in industries such as match box, leather, carpet, saree, stone quarries, gems cutting and polishing, firecrackers, brick kilns, and many more.  These children are denied their fundamental right to childhood, to education, to play and to dream like normal children.  This practice has been continuing uninhibitingly in  blatant violation of the constitution and the laws of India.The vast majority of India’s bonded child laborers come from poor families.  The children’s parents borrow money from rich money lenders.  However, when the parents are unable to pay back  the loans, the money lenders seize their children, forcing the children to work in factories until the money is paid back with  exorbitant interest.  One might assume that these loans are large sums of money, but on average the loans range from only 10 to 20 thousand rupees.
Views of UNICEF & ILO
The 2001 national census of India estimated the total number of child labour, aged 5–14, to be at 12.6 million. Child labour problem is not unique to India; worldwide, about 217 million children work, many full-time. In 2001, out of a 12.6 million, about 12 million children in India were in a hazardous job. UNICEF estimates that India with its larger population, has the highest number of labourers in the world under 14 years of age, while sub-saharan African countries have the highest percentage of children who are deployed as child labour. International Labour Organization estimates that agriculture at 60 percent is the largest employer of child labour in India,  while United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 70 % of child labour is deployed in agriculture and related activities. Outside of agriculture, child labour is observed in almost all informal sectors of the Indian economy.
Some child rights activists argue that child labour must include every child who is not in school because he or she is a hidden child worker. UNICEF, however, points out that India faces major shortages of schools, classrooms and teachers particularly in rural areas where 90 percent of child labour problem is observed. About 1 in 5 primary schools have just one teacher to teach students across all grades.
Causes: Child Labour
The reasons why child labour problem exists are poverty, population, lack of proper education facilities, greed of owners of small and medium scale industries, citizen apathy and poor law enforcement. While first 3 can be easily understood it will be worthwhile to understand the third and fourth factor. Small and medium size business employ children as they pay lower wages and ask them to work extended hours. In some cases make shift accommodation is provided within factory and children are asked to work 14 to 16 hours a day. Citizen apathy can be lack of concern on situation around. Whenever we notice a child below 14 working as domestic help, hotels, mechanic shop we simply ignore it or think that instead of turning a vagabond or rogue at least he/she is learning something & earning, the same selfish logic we apply employing in our own houses or factory. Also the thought process that of we do not employ him or her someone else will. Younger age children (10-14) years are preferred as domestic help because they work extended hours without complaining, look after smaller children and can be easily terrorized and punished. It is well known that rarely these cases get reported and law enforcing agencies do not take these matters seriously.
Effect on Exports
The  European countries and US have very strict laws not to import goods from the company employing child labour. At many occasions  orders of carpet, handloom products and sports goods from India were lost as the company exporting was found involved in child labour. This is affecting exports as well as creates poor image of India in the world.
Laws : Child Labour
The Constitution of India in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy prohibits child labor below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or castle or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Article 24). The constitution also envisioned that India shall, by 1960, provide infrastructure and resources for free and compulsory education to all children of the age six to 14 years. (Article 21-A and Article 45). India is a federal form of government, and child labour is a matter on which both the central government and state governments can legislate. The major national legislative developments include the following.
The Factories Act of 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on whom, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15–18 years be employed in any factory.
The Mines Act of 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, and again in 2008.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or in bondage.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 percent of seats in every private school must be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children.
India formulated a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. This Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations. It envisioned strict enforcement of Indian laws on child labor combined with development programs to address the root causes of child labor such as poverty. In 1988, this led to the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) initiative. This legal and development initiative continues, with a current central government funding of Description: INR 602 crores, targeted solely to eliminate child labor in India. Despite these efforts, child labor remains a major challenge for India.
 Magnitude of Child Labour : India
According to Census of India, 2001, there were 12.26 million working children in the age group of 5-14 years as compared to 11.3 million in 1991 revealing an increasing trend in absolute numbers though the work participation rates of children (5-14) has come down from 5.4 percent during 1991 to 5 percent during 2001. The recent round of the National Sample Survey (NSSO) estimates suggests that the child labour in the country is around 8.9 million in 2004/2005 with a workforce participation rate of 3.4 per cent (NSSO 2004/05).
While some people mistakenly think it is better when all members of a family work, child labor actually makes poverty worse. The more children are forced to work, the fewer opportunities there are for adults to earn a living. By driving down adult wages and depriving children of education, child labor ensures that poverty will be passed down from generation to generation.  The International Labour Organization (ILO) states, “Born to parents who themselves were uneducated child workers, many child workers are forced to continue a tradition that leaves them chained to a life of poverty” (ILO, United States Policies to Address Child Labor Globally, 2010). 
Not only does child labor lead to a perpetual cycle of poverty for a family, it also depresses the economy. A study by the ILO found that it would cost $760 billion to end child labor, but the benefits to the economy would be more than six times that—an estimated $5.1 trillion in economies where child laborers are found.the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is a legislation to address hazardous industrial child labour in a limited way as the purview of the Act covers only the organized sectors of production. As it is inbuilt in the law, this Act has excluded a vast section of toiling children in the unorganized sectors, as over 90 percent of the labour force in India is accounted for by the unorganised sectors of production. The political weight behind the initiatives towards government legal intervention has been very dissimilar across states of India. Generally under the era of globalization and liberalization policies, the underlying attitude of the government is not to strictly impose labour laws that will disturb the production process. With regard to other forms of intervention, the flag ship programme of the Government of India is the National Child Labour Project (NCLP). The NCLP Scheme started in 1988, has so far covered 400,200 working children. About 3.08 lakh children have been mainstreamed into formal education system so far. The Scheme is running in 250 districts in 14 states. Even after discounting for the inherent problems in the NCLP scheme the coverage is very low compared to the magnitude of the problem (12 million according to 2001 population census) even by the official statistics. In fact the magnitude of child labour has increased in absolute terms by about one million between 1991 and 2001.
Magnitude of child labour across major states
As per the census data, the trend on the magnitude of child labour is not uniform across the country. There is across the board decline in the incidence of child labour in the Southern and Western Indian States and UTs between 1991 and 2001. However, there has been an increasing trend in the Eastern and North Indian States and UTs (Table 4). There is an increase in the absolute magnitude of child labour between 1991 and 2001 in the states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh While the Kerala and Tamil Nadu stories are well known, it is heartening to see that the state of Andhra Pradesh, that had a dubious distinction of having the largest child labour force in the country, shows reduction in magnitude of child labour and work participation rates along with a dramatic increase in the enrollment of children in school. However, Andhra Pradesh is the second largest state in terms of magnitude by 2001 Census.

Reserved Child Labour Force
The most important category of children is “others”, which accounts for 43 million. They are not attending schools, and are neither at ’work’ nor are categorized as those attending domestic duties. “These children are, as referred to by Rodger and Standing, those in “Idleness and unemployment”, which is different from ‘recreation and leisure’, in the sense it is “liable to be interspersed with marginal, irregular activities that provide a modicum of income” and the idleness is the “induced sense of passivity and anomie, if prolonged, cause unemployability for many forms of regular employment” (Rodgers and Standing 1981, p. 10). Such children, without schooling, lack education, and by being idle, lack essential skills, and when adults they are almost unemployable”
These children are also called variously as “Nowhere children”, “potential child
labourers” and “reserve child labour force”. Many NGOs, Commissions, activists
and scholars bracket them as “child labourers” as they are all deprived of ‘education’ (Second National Labour Commission Report, MV Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Shanta Sinha, Neera Burra etc). Hence it is often claimed that the number of ’child labourers’ in the country is in the range of over 60 millions.
Vocational Training Initive To Curb Child Labor
Government in collaboration with private sector has launched training programs for better employability which in a way reduce child labor.TeamLease Education Foundation (TLEF) had submitted a proposal for establishing TeamLease Skills University (TLSU) in Gujarat for which an LOI was issued in Feb’12. Subsequently, State Assembly has passed the Gujarat Private University Act (amendment) on   1st April’13 approving establishment of TeamLease Skills University – India’s First Vocational University. 
TLSU will offer skill based academic programs to students with higher secondary or equivalent qualification. Our programs will enhance employability of these students and provide human resource to the fast growing manufacturing and service sectors in Gujarat. 
TLSU plans to offer Certificate,
Diploma, Advance Diploma, 2 Years Associate Degree and Degree programs in following fields during Phase I launch from July’14. 
  1. Mechatronics and allied multi-skill manufacturing disciplines
  2. IT Infrastructure and Hardware
  3. Finance, Accounting services and operations
  4. Hospitality and Tourism 

Non-governmental organizations

Many NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, CARE India, Child Rights and You, Global march against child labor, RIDE India etc. have been working to eradicate child labour in India. Pratham is India’s largest non-governmental organization with the mission ‘every child in school and learning well. Founded in 1994, Pratham has aimed to reduce child labour and offer schooling to children irrespective of their gender, religion and social background. It has grown by introducing low cost education models that are sustainable and reproducible. In 2005, Pratham was involved in coordinating a child labour rescue operation with India’s Ministry of Labour and police, when around 500 children were rescued from zari shops in New Delhi.
 The Govt. should take proper effective steps to decrease the population and give the employment to the parents of child labour. Necessary practical steps should be taken to educate the children. Provided the necessary sufficient funds to the organizations working for the education and removal of child labour. There should be effective implementations of child protective laws. There should be necessary prosecution of child labour defaulters. The involvement of the religious leaders, media, trade unionist and non government organizations and to tackle the child labour by forming advisory committees on child labour on block level should be there. The authorities should not bend before the pressure of the politicians while tackling the problems of child labour.
At present, inspite of policy of the government regarding removal of child labour, the various steps taken in this direction and the laws passed abo
ut it haven’t controlled the ongoing child labour. This is possible only with the co-operation of all sections of the society and the law enforcement agencies and by removing or minimizing the causes of child labour. The main thrust should be on controlling the population of the country, education of the children and providing sufficient funds for its removal from the gross domestic product of India.
1.      Magnitude of Child Labour in India  : An Analysis of Official Sources of Data (Draft)
2.      Child labour in India