“Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of these worst kinds of child labour”
The International Labor Organization (ILO) announced 12th June as the world day against child labour. They aimed to celebrate this day as “Action against Child Labour”. This was first launched in 2002 and aimed to raise awareness and actions to prevent child labour worldwide. Each year on this day Governments, NGOs, social activists and millions of people around the world highlight the plight of child labourers and their preventive measures.
Sustainable development goals (SDG) in 2015 also adopted a renewed global committment to end child labour. The SDG calls on the worldwide community to “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of these worst kinds of child labour”. According to data from 2011 Census, the number of child laborers in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls
What is child labour :
according to ILO “Child labour refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling”. It also includes works that deprive children of their childhood, their potential and dignity. The most severe form is to enslave the children, separate them from their families, expose them to hazardous environments, leave them on the streets of cities for begging, traffic them to different states, sell their organs, make them disabled and push them into prostitution (especially girls) and in the pornography industry. These are the worst types of child labour as defined by ILO.
Different forms/types of child labour in India:
1. Slavery or practices similar to slavery :-
In India, children are forced into debt bondage also known as debt slavery, the most frequent type of child labour in rural areas. They are forced to work as security for the repayment of a debt or other obligations of their parents. Currently, according to ILO (2005) debt bondage is the most common method of enslavement. According to the Global Survey Index, there are 29.6 million people in modern slavery globally. India leads the world, followed by China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. These 10 countries account for 76% of the world’s modern slaves (ref: http://timesofindia. indiatimes.com).
2. Child Begging :-
Children are forced to beg in the streets of cities, especially children of migrant people. They have been tortured, beaten, starved and forced to beg at traffic signals and other places in cities. Parents also force their children to earn money by begging when they are not able to earn bread for their family. A study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Action Aid in 2013 counted 37,059 child beggars on the streets of Mumbai.
3. Hazardous child labour :-
This type of child labour include working in a circumstance which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. The most common type in India includes small-scale industries such as pesticide-making and tobacco-making industries. Since child labour is cheap and easy to handle, they expose children to a hazardous environment.
According to ILO recommendations following are hazardous works or activities that should be prohibited in India as well as worldwide:
a. Physical and sexual abuse of children
b. Underground water or underground works and working at dangerous heights.
c. Work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools.
D. Working in an unhealthy environment which may expose children to hazardous temperature, noise etc.
e. Working for prolonged hours or during night
4. Illicit Activities :-
Usually children are involved in the trafficking of drugs and smuggling which is illegal by law. Illicit activities involve trafficking and illegal trading (Buying and selling) of children for labour, sexual exploitation and other illegal activities. In India trafficking of girls accounted for 40% of total cases of child trafficking (2019). However, the trafficking of humans is a serious and punishable offence by the constitution of India.
5. Prostitution :-
This is one of the worst forms of child labour in India. It involves mostly girl children and they are forced to involve in prostitution at a very early age. It affects the mental and physical development of girls. Sometimes boys are also forced to involve in adultery and pornography.
Other common types of child labour in India includes Industrial Child labour :-
This sector has the largest no of child labour in India. In India, the sector has the largest number of children employed below the age of 18 and over 10 million children below the age of 5 to14 years and are working in informal or small industries including approximately 4.5 million girls. Examples; garment industries, brick kilns, agriculture, fireworks etc
Domestic Child Labour :-
It constitutes 10% of total child labour in India. Boys and girls below the age of 14 are employed to work in families to look after their daily chores. Nearly 20% of all the domestic workers employed are below the age of 14 years and mainly girls.
Causes of Child Labour in India :-
Poverty, population explosion, education backwardness, lack of access to basic human rights, unemployment etc. are the major causes of child labour in India. Poverty is the major cause as India is a developing nation and poverty is one of the major challenges of the country. Due to extreme poverty, parents were compelled to send their children to work. These children are completely deprived of education, health and other basic requirements. Population explosion and unemployment are other causes of increased incidence of child labour in India. However, these three factors are interconnected and solely or together all are responsible for forced child labour.
After Covid- 19 rate of unemployment and dropout rate of children from school has increased drastically and hence, an increased rate of child labour has also been reported in India. Poor economic growth of the country, low socioeconomic condition and uneven distribution of resources and wealth also lead to increased cases of child labour and other illegal activities in society. In addition to this, cheap labour, family tradition and gender discrimination are other reasons for increased data on child labour.
Rules, laws, policies and acts against Child Labour in India
To eliminate child labour, the Govt. of India has implemented many programs, laws and policies to stop the exploitation of children in the form of child labour. The first committee to be formed by the Indian Govt to study the details of child labour was the Gurupadswamy Committee. This committee examined the status of child labour and recommended that “it would be difficult to eliminate child labour as long as poverty continues”. They also suggested multiple policy approaches to deal with the problem of child labour. Based on the Gurupadswamy Committee’s suggestions the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986.
As per this act employment of children was prohibited in certain specific hazardous occupations. Another act was amended in 2016 i.e. child labour act, that prohibits the employment of children in any sector below 14 years. It is an illegal and punishable act. National Policy on Child Labour was also formulated in 1987 with the following action plans:
a) Strict enforcement of Child and Adolescent Labour act 1986.
b) National Child Labour Policy Scheme (NCLP) aimed to work in areas of high concentration of child and adolescent labour.
c) General development program for child labour families.
In 1992, India was the first country to join the International Labour Program (ILO) and International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).
A project started in 2008 jointly by the Indian govt. and US Govt. named USDOL (US development of labour) is aimed to cover 521 districts of 5 Indian states with the highest rate of child labour (MP, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, UP and Delhi).
Many Indian states also launched different programs against child labour. Such as the Andhra Pradesh state project funded by the UK development for international development (DFID) in 2000 and the Karnataka state project funded by the Italian government. (Ref. Ministry of Labor and employment govt of India).
In the Indian constitution provision article 21 A and 34 included that provide right to education (Free and compulsory education for all children of age 6 to 14), and the prohibition of the employment of children in factories i.e. no children below the age of 14 years shall be employed in factories. Although the government of India has many plans, policies, laws, schemes and programs for providing fundamental and compulsory requirements and education, still a large population of India are deprived of basic needs. The worst sufferers are poor families who cannot afford education for their children.