Child Labour-A Bane
“India is the largest child labour force market in the world. The problem of child labour in India is of colossal proportions. The notion that children are being exploited and forced into labour, while not receiving education crucial to development, concerns many people. India’s the largest illustration plagued by the bane of child labour.”
“Every child brings with it the hope that God is not yet disappointed with man,” said the great Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore. But is it possible today to utter these noble words without shame on our face looking at the word’s bonded children, millions of whom are in India, robbed of their childhood before it even began to bloom ? The answer is perhaps a big ‘No’, as the issue of exploitative thild labour seems yet to draw serious attention.
Child labour is a global phenomenon. In India, too child labour remains a persistent and ubiquitous bane. The significant causes of child labour are poverty, large family, absence of provision for compulsory education and ignorance of parents etc. However, in the changing scenario of globalization and liberalisation, the U.S. Child Labour Defence Act , the German determination to keep out imports from industries employing children and mounting pressure exerted by Western Countries are indices that the time has come to give serious thought to the elimination of incidence of child labour.
Child labour support the source of income of the poor. A study conducted by the ILO Bureau of Statistics found that “Children’s work was considered fundamental in keeping up the economic level of household, either in the form of work for wages, of help in household enterprises or of household chores in order to free adult household members for economic activity elsewhere”. In some cases, the study found that a child income accounted for between 34 and 37 percent of the total household income. This study infers that a child labourer’s income is important to the livelihood of a poor family.
The two factors (1) poverty (2) the lack of a social network form the basis of even the worst type of bonded child labour. For the poor, there are few sources of bank loans, governmental loans or other credit sources, and even if sources are available, few of them living in poverty qualify or they hesitate to go for any loans for fear of bribe may be demanded of fear of penalty if unable to pay the loan. Here enters the local money lender, for an average of two thousand rupees, parents exchange their child’s labour to local money lenders (Human Rights Watch 1996). Since the earnings of bonded child labourers are less than the interest on the loans, these bonded children are forced to work, while interest on their loans accumulates. A bonded child can only be released after his/her parents makes a lump sum payment, which is extremely difficult for the poor.
Though poverty is one of the basic cause of child labour, it is not the only factor but inadequate schools facility or even the expense of schooling leaves them with little else to do but work. The attitudes of parents also contribute to child labour, some parent feel that children should work in order to develop skills useful in the job market, in place of wasting time in formal education.
Since independence, India has committed itself to be against child labour. Article 24 of the Indian constitution clearly states that “No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or employed in any hazardous employment”. Article 39 (e) directs state policy such “that the health and strength of workers… and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocation unsuited to their age and strength”. These two articles show that India has always had the goal of taking care of its children and ensuring the safety of workers.
The Bonded Labour System Act of 1976 fulfills the Indian Constitution’s directive of ending forced labour. The Act “Frees all bonded labourers, cancels any outstanding debts against them, prohibits the creation of new bondage agreements, and orders the economic rehabilitation of freed bonded labourers by the state”. In regard to child labour, the Indian government enacted the child labour act in 1986. The purpose of this act is to “Prohibit the employment of children who have not completed their 14th year in specified hazardous occupations and processes”. This reveals that government of India can make laws against any inhuman activities but cannot implement because many political leaders running the government themselves own the factories where children are exploited is a fact.
The psychological damage to children from another unfortunate story. They have no proper childhood, nor can they hope for meaningful adulthood, Denied love, physical care, nutrition, social stimulus, moral inputs or opportunity for education and advancement in life, they are more or less condemned in prison like environments. No wonder that one of the I.L.O. reports stated that, “In many instances children are kept under close watch not allowed to go outside or have contact or talk to person when in the street. The children work long hours, some, when failing to work or making mistakes are kept in closed rooms, sometimes tortured and children, who try to escape, are beaten up.”
The problem of child labour has social, economical and political faces. It cannot be eliminated by focussing on one determinant, for example education, or by brute enforcement of child labour laws. The government must ensure that the needs of the poor are filled before eliminating child labour.
If poverty is eradicated the need for child labour will automatically diminish. No matter how hard India tries, child labour always will exist until the political leaders and bureaucratic are honestly working in this direction. The development of India as a nation is being hampered by child tabour. Children are growing up illiterate because they have been working and not attending school. A cycle of poverty is formed and the need for child labour is reborn after every generation. India needs to address the problem by tackling the underlying causes of child labour through governmental policies and with the co-ordination and co-operation of the NGO’s and the enforcement of these policies honestly in true spirit. Without wiping out the causes permanently, we cannot eradicated the typical problem of child labour, the half hearted measures are not sufficient if we could not eradicate poverty. Child labour will automatically say good bye India.