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Child Labour: Not A Child’s Play…

Recently Rajasthan police, rescued 52, then again after few days, 66 children, engaged in bangle-making from Jaipur. All the children were boys in the age bracket of 8 to 14 years.

Delhi government has accepted that from 2009 till May 2014, 4,310 child labourers were rescued and shocking 99% of those rescued belonged to other states and only 19 children were from Delhi. Inadequate and weak tracing and tracking mechanism has resulted in a number of cases of trafficked girls being sexually abused. Employment of girl child is much more than the boys, in domestic labour industry. Poverty is the major trigger when it comes to child labour and people employ poor children at their residence or on business premises.

According to a report by the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC), nearly 40,000 children are abducted every year, of which 11,000 remain untraced.

Only 10% of human trafficking in India is international, while almost 90% is interstate. Many of the families, unable to afford the basic necessities of life, are forced to sell their children particularly girls. These children are often trafficked for domestic work, begging and sexual exploitation.

US-based China Labor Watch few months back reported that the Chinese firm Dongguan Shinyang Electronics and then HEG were employing workers under the age of 16. These firms are supplier of parts to Samsung and Lenovo. Child workers have previously been discovered at Foxconn, the supplier for some of the world's biggest companies, including Apple. The major companies across the world have been accused of using child labours to minimize the cost of production and hence by compromising on their workers’ health and environment, they maximize their profit margins. These giants include Nike, Adidas, Forever 21, Aeropostale, Hersheys, Microsoft, Apple, Phillip Morris, Victoria Secret, Puma, Samsung and counting.

It is sad to see that at the age of holding pens, books and toys, they hold shoe polish, garbage bags and empty bottles. At the age of making sand castles and tree houses, they are forced to make products that we use in our daily lives. Nelson Mandela once said,” There can be no keener revelation of the society’s soul than the way in which it treats the children.” 12th June will be known by many to be the first day of the FIFA World Cup but rarely do people care about the fact that it is also the World Child Labour Day.

Every day millions of children worldwide are forced to work in inhumane conditions. It is estimated that around 168 million children are being forced into child labour.

According to another report of the ILO, underage children work at all sorts of jobs around the world, usually because they and their families are extremely poor.

Large numbers of children work in agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, mining, and domestic service. Some children work in illicit activities like the drug trade and prostitution or other traumatic activities such as serving as soldiers.

Children account for 42% of our country’s population and 2% out of which are working. India is home to the largest number of working children in the world under 14 years of age. In India, according to the 2011 census, 43.53 lakh children, in the age group of 5 to 14 years, are engaged in various economic activities. 32.7 lakh children are working in rural areas where as 10.8 lakh children in urban areas. United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70% of child labour is deployed in agriculture and related activities like farming, livestock rearing and fisheries. Children are also employed in unorganized sector like fireworks industry, silk industry, carpet weaving, coal mining, diamond industry and domestic labour. Because of the structure of the unorganized sector, nearly 85% of this child labour remain hard-to-reach, invisible and excluded. These sectors deploy children as low cost, easy to hire, easy to dismiss labor.

According to UNICEF, 12.6 million children are engaged in hazardous occupations. Of those, 21% of these children are employed in cigarette and bidi factories, 17% in construction and 15% as domestic workers.

In comparison to boys, girls are two times more likely to be out of school and working in domestic services. Many girls are kept from school or drop out, then provide child labour. These children start to work for their families and help them. They do not realize the value of education at their age and parents do not unwelcome the extra money. For some of the families, children’s income constitutes 25% to 40% of the family income. Child labour comes easy to those who employ them.

Children can be beaten, abused and kept for lesser money. Parents view their children as tools to earn extra money.

Due to long hours in hazardous conditions, they are exposed to many ailments and diseases and because of unavailability of proper medical facilities, are left scathed for life. Other than the health abuse, they are also reported to face the social negligence as well as verbal and sexual abuse. Child labour is a violation of children’s rights. According to Article 21 (a) of the Indian Constitution all children between the ages of 6 to 14 should be provided with free and compulsory education.

One of the main complicated legal issues is of having multiple definitions of age of children across various labour laws and social legislations. While the social legislations define a child to be 18 years, most labour legislations define it as 14. There is a clear contradiction in the way, children are defined.

India first recognized and introduced The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. According to the Government of India, in 2013, 8,776 violations under this act were detected. Government of India formulated a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. Main focus of this policy was on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations. In 1988 the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) was initiated to eliminate child labour. Despite these efforts, child labour remains a major challenge for India. This year, Government of India has approved this scheme for 270 districts in 20 states of the country. The government was implementing this scheme in the area of high concentration of child labour.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 defines a child as any person who has not completed 18 years of age. It is the latest law, according to many legal experts, applicable for child rights and protection, and should be considered the legal definition for a child in all matters. Now the central government is considering reviewing, amending and strengthening the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2012.

In 2006, the ILO's Second Global Report on Child Labour reported significant progress in the fight against child labour, but ILO's Third Global Report released in 2010, showed a reduction of just 3 percent of the global estimates in the four-year period . In 2012, the number of children involved in the worst forms of child labour was 85 million. The decline in child labour is not much encouraging. Now the elimination of child labour by 2016, a goal set by 80 countries at the 2010 Hague Global Child Labour Conference, looks too optimistic but possible to achieve, just we have to stand up against this evil of the society.

Child labour is a complex issue and every member of the society should play active role in preventing children from entering child labour. There should be awareness among parents about the effects of child labour. Children should be empowered through education and skill development. There should be zero tolerance towards violation of child rights.

(Author is student of The Doon School, Dehradun)

Last modified onThursday, 08 June 2017 11:44
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