It is indeed unfortunate that a fast-developing and economically vibrant country like India should be home to the largest number of child laborers in the world. Tens of thousands of children are forced to toil for close to16 hours a day in the small and unorganized industries across both rural and urban India. Despite a stringent ban, child labour is a huge problem that the country is grappling with. The 2011 census revealed the shocking details that there are around 10 million child labourers in India and they are in the 5-14 age group.
The problem is a huge one as children in India. Here, children do help their parents in farms and other small scale activities. This is a trend that has been continuing for many decades. Poor farmers try to save money and cut down expenses and the best way of doing it is to use their children to specific tasks in the fields. The other form of child labour is the more heinous one and that is bonded labour. Children are forced to work for people who have loaned money to their parents. This is a form of exploitation as the poor and gullible parents are lured into debt traps by cunning and astute moneylenders.
Some of the key reasons for rising instances of child labour in India are:
• High population
• Extreme poverty
• Alcoholism and drug addiction
High population means lesser jobs and more mouths to feed. The poor are forced into unemployment. Sending their children to do menial jobs is the easy way out for these parents to get enough money for food and other basic needs.
Illiteracy is another key reason for child labour as parents fail to get jobs that pay a decent salary. They are forced to send out their children to work to supplement the meagre family income.
Poverty also forces parents to send their kids to work as it is a question of survival for them. Many poor families in India are able to barely survive with one frugal meal daily which is often bought by the money that their children earn as daily labourers.
In many cases of child labour, either one or both parents are alcoholics or indulge in substance abuse. They are in no position to earn any wages as addiction and its after-effects render them physically and mentally futile. Children of such parents look at ways of feeding the family and end up in the vicious cycle of child labour.
Parents of such children generally fail to understand the importance of providing children a normal childhood as they are buys battling their own troubles. Children doing child labour suffer from poor physical, emotional and mental balance as they are not really prepared to undertake rigorous tasks.
There are many laws in the Indian Constitution for protection of children from child labour. These include:
• The Factories Act of 1948 prevents the employment of children below 14 years in any factory.
• The Mines Act of 1952 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 18 years in mines.
• The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 prevents the employment of children below the age of 14 years in life-threatening occupations
• The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000 makes it a punishable offence to employ children.
The saddest part is that despite so many laws drafted and passed to protect children from exploitation, there is absolutely no change at the ground level. Many employees, even companies of repute, flout the rules blatantly, often on the strength of their political connections and money power. The lawmakers also quietly look the other way and in many cases prevent the authorities from applying the provisions of the various Acts.
It is a frustrating situation for these poor children with no one to support them. The menace can only be tackled effectively if social organizations, NGOs and other like-minded, independent bodies expose the business-politicians-police nexus and rescue these unfortunate children from the hell-hole they are forced to work and live in.