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Dysfunctions Last Updated: Feb 7, 2024 - 1:43:08 PM


India: The Land of Deprived Childhood
By Jagdish N. Singh, Gatestone, September 4, 2023
Sep 4, 2023 - 9:38:33 AM

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A large number of Indian children... are still subjected to bonded labour and forced employment. India today has more than 33 million children under the age of 18 in work requiring hard labour.

India's agriculture sector accounts for the majority (70%) of employed children. Child labour, regrettably, is used in almost all of the informal sectors of the Indian economy, including coal mining, and the diamond, fireworks, silk and carpet industries.

A 2003 Human Rights Watch report claims that children as young as five work for up to 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week, in the silk industry.

Official estimates for children working as domestic labourers and in restaurants is more than 2.5 million; some NGOs estimate the figure to be around 20 million.

    As of September 2022, the US Department of Labor lists India in its "List of Goods Produced by Child Labor of Forced Labor," with 25 types of goods produced by child labour.

    The main reasons for child labour, clearly, are poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. Out of India's 217 million children, 49.9% are poor. Children in this category have little choice but to join the labour force.

A large number of Indian children are still subjected to bonded labour and forced employment. India today has more than 33 million children in work requiring hard labour. Pictured: Children work at a construction project in front of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on January 30, 2010 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

The welfare of children has long been a concern in India. Aware of this need, the founding fathers of independent India in 1949 wrote a Constitution that prohibits employing children under the age of 14 in factories and other hazardous work (Article 24).

India's Parliament has also tried to safeguard children's rights by passing legislation . The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 makes employing a child a criminal offence.[1] Parliament has also enacted other laws to prohibit, identify and prosecute child labour.

To stop children from being forced to join the labour force, India's Constitution (Article 15- 3) states that "Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children." Article 21A says that "the State shall provide free and compulsory education to children from the age of six to fourteen years." Article 39, clauses (e) and (f) state:

    "The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing... that the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength... that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment."

India's Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009) mandates free and compulsory education to children aged 6 to 14 years, and that 25% of the seats in private schools shall be for children from groups in which the children are disadvantaged or physically challenged. India's National Policy on Child Labour (1987) adopted a gradual and sequential approach, focusing on the rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations.

A large number of Indian children, however, are still subjected to bonded labour and forced employment. India today has more than 33 million children under the age of 18 in work requiring hard labour. According to India's 2011 national census, the total number of child labourers, aged 5–14, is 10.1 million out of a total child population in that age group of 259.64 million. According to an unofficial estimate, there are close to 40 million children engaged in labour.

India's agriculture sector accounts for the majority (70%) of employed children. Child labour, regrettably, is used in almost all of the informal sectors of the Indian economy, including coal mining, and the diamond, fireworks, silk and carpet industries.

A 2003 Human Rights Watch report claims that children as young as five work for up to 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week, in the silk industry.

Official estimates for children working as domestic labourers and in restaurants is more than 2.5 million; some NGOs estimate the figure to be around 20 million.

The number of child workers declined from 11 million to 8 million between the 2001 and 2011 censuses of India. During the same period, however, the number of children working in urban settings rose from 1.3 million to 2 million.

As of September 2022, the US Department of Labor lists India in its "List of Goods Produced by Child Labor of Forced Labor," with 25 types of goods produced by child labour.

As part of the Indian government's agenda for development under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it plans to pay special attention to the need to totally end child labour. To achieve this, the Modi government needs to see to it that all laws and regulations against child labour are actually enforced. India's Supreme Court has given directives from time to time against breaching the country's child labour laws.[2] The government seriously needs to honour all these judicial directives.

More importantly, the government could work with various non-governmental organizations[3] to combat child labour. The main reasons for child labour, clearly, are poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. Out of India's 217 million children, 49.9% are poor. Children in this category have little choice but to join the labour force.

Is it possible for the government to invest more in advanced agricultural techniques to relieve families of the need to have more children to help with farming?

Little has happened regarding early childhood care and education. The framework of India's child protection is largely urban with a limited reach in rural areas; out of every 100 children in India, only 32 finish school education.

There is a near consensus in modern times that pregnancy and infancy are important periods for the formation of a child's brain, fundamental cognitive and interpersonal skills; higher cognitive functions attain their peak by the age of three. But the government continues to depend for the care and educational requirements of its 0-3-year-olds on neighbourhood female child-care workers; sadly, there is no system to take care of babies of poor families or of mothers who go to work for a daily wage.

Although India has one of the world's largest social welfare programs, and although the World Bank has assisted with $400 million for India's social welfare needs, many of the poor still lack safety net coverage. Perhaps a closer look might to be taken at what can be done to benefit India and alleviate this situation.


Notes & References

[1] The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 (amended in 2012) defines a "Child" as a person below the age of 14. The Act prohibits employment of a child in any employment, including as a domestic helper. It makes employing a child for any work a cognizable criminal offence. The Act defines children between age of 14 and 18 as "adolescent" and allows their employment except in the listed hazardous occupation and processes which include mining, inflammable substance and explosives related work and any other hazardous process as per the Factories Act, 1948.

[2] In the case of People's Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, the Supreme Court observed that it was a breach of Article 24 of the Constitution to employ children below the age of 14 in construction work. The court prohibited violation of Articles 23 and 24 and laid emphasis on the observance of fundamental rights by private individuals. In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India & Others, the Court took into cognizance the employment of children in the carpet manufacturing industry in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh. It instructed the District magistrate to conduct raids, which resulted in the release of 144 children, held under forced custody by the owners. In the case of Sheela Barse & Others v. Union of India, the Supreme Court directed the release of children being exposed to chemical fumes and coal dust in the glass industry. In the case of M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu, the Court directed the government to identify working children, ensure their withdrawal from hazardous industries, ensure their appropriate education and ensure that at least one adult member of the child's family received employment.

[3] Many NGOs, such as Bachpan Bachao Andolan, ChildFund, CARE India, Talaash Association, Child Rights and You, Global March Against Child Labour, Bundelkhand matra bhumi samaj sevi sansthan project stop working with child labour in India, RIDE India, and Childline, have been working to eradicate child labour in India.


Source:Ocnus.net 2023

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