Child Labour in India

Relevant for sociology optional Paper- 2 & GS Mains Paper- 2

Child labour is a grave concern in India, which has been prevalent for decades, and continues to affect millions of children across the country. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines child labour as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”

According to the 2011 census, India has an estimated 10.1 million child labourers aged between 5 and 14 years. However, this number is believed to be an underestimation, as child labour is often hidden and unreported. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, where 80% of child labour is concentrated.

The causes of child labour in India are complex and varied. Poverty is a major factor, with families living below the poverty line often unable to afford basic necessities like food and shelter, let alone education. Many parents are forced to send their children to work to supplement the family income. In some cases, children are sent to work by their parents to pay off debts or to finance their own addictions.

Other factors contributing to child labour include lack of access to education, illiteracy, and lack of awareness about the importance of education. Many children drop out of school due to the poor quality of education, lack of infrastructure, and lack of skilled teachers. This results in a lack of opportunities for these children, making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

The types of work that child labourers are engaged in are often hazardous and detrimental to their health and well-being. Children work in a variety of industries, including agriculture, mining, construction, and domestic work. In the agricultural sector, children are often involved in the production of cotton, tea, and other crops, and are exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides. In the mining industry, children work in dangerous conditions, with little or no protective equipment, and are at risk of accidents and injuries. Children engaged in domestic work are often subject to abuse and exploitation, and are denied basic rights like education and healthcare.

The Indian government has taken steps to address the problem of child labour in the country. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986 to prohibit the employment of children below the age of 14 in hazardous industries. The act was amended in 2016 to prohibit the employment of children under 14 in all industries, and to prohibit the employment of adolescents (aged 14 to 18) in hazardous industries.

In addition, the government has launched several schemes and initiatives to address the root causes of child labour. The Right to Education Act, which was enacted in 2009, guarantees free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme aims to provide quality education to all children, with a focus on girls and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Mid-Day Meal scheme provides free meals to children in government schools, to encourage attendance and reduce dropout rates.

Despite these efforts, child labour remains a pervasive problem in India, and much more needs to be done to address the issue. The enforcement of laws and regulations is weak, and there is a lack of political will to address the problem. Corruption and poor governance also contribute to the problem, with officials often turning a blind eye to child labour in exchange for bribes.

To effectively address the problem of child labour, there needs to be a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of the problem. This includes tackling poverty, improving access to education, and creating opportunities for parents to earn a decent livelihood. The government needs to strengthen enforcement of laws and regulations, and ensure that perpetrators of child labour are punished. Civil society organizations, the media, and other stakeholders also have a critical role to play in eradicating child labour in India. They can create awareness among the public, and work towards changing attitudes towards child labour. NGOs can provide education, vocational training, and other support services to children who have been rescued from child labour, and their families. They can also work with the government to improve the implementation of laws and policies related to child labour.

Media can play a crucial role in exposing cases of child labour, and creating public awareness about the issue. They can also highlight success stories and best practices related to addressing the problem of child labour. Other stakeholders, such as businesses, can also play a role in eradicating child labour by ensuring that their supply chains are free of child labour, and by promoting ethical and responsible business practices.

In conclusion, child labour is a serious problem in India that requires urgent action. It is a violation of the rights of children, and has serious implications for their health, education, and future prospects. While the government has taken steps to address the problem, much more needs to be done to eradicate child labour in India. A comprehensive approach is needed that addresses the root causes of the problem, and involves all stakeholders in working towards a common goal of creating a child-labour-free India.

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