Poverty, Not Choice, Leads To Child Labour

By Gitanjali Maria:

I was at a local restaurant the other day, sipping a cup of coffee and biting on some crispy snacks when I saw a little boy cleaning a table in the far corner of the restaurant. He was tiny and the innocence, of childhood had not left his face. On the adjacent table to that, sat a happy family of four, parents and their two children — who would more or less be of the same age as of the child clearing the table. While one set of kids were biting into tasty food, the other, half- starved, was working hard to feed himself and his family at least one meal a day. This is the irony of childhood.

Childhood is considered to be one of the most care-free and joyous of one’s stages of life. But sadly it is not true for every kid in India. Working in cheap restaurants, brick kiln and bangle and matchbox factories and as domestic labourers, these children of a lesser God, learn the lessons of life the ‘harsh’ way and do not have an easy childhood. They are considered adult-enough to work by their under-nourished and poverty-stricken families once these children cross the age of eight or so. You pity these kids but there is hardly much that can be done.

Despite strict laws, this social evil, like many others is also hard to monitor, as it is desperation to keep the fires in their homes running that prompt the parents to send their kids for such hard and heartless toil. It is to fill one’s stomach that all men work and so do these small children. Kids are also often sold as bonded labourers to earn money. It is utter helplessness that would prompt parents to take such a heavy step.

This shows that despite India having achieved growth rates of nearly 9%, the economic prosperity is yet to trickle down to the lower sections of the society. The children of poor families are often a neglected lot. Though they may be bright and intelligent, they often do not get access to facilities to hone themselves professionally. Many of them could have contributed to the skilled and semi-skilled workforce of our nation that keeps the wheels of our economy churning. A little education and warmth could have made better individuals out of them. It is a sad fact that it is many such neglected children with a traumatic childhood who turn to anti-social activities and crimes.

Simply making primary education free and compulsory is not the all-out option. Ensuring its delivery is the important aspect. And for this it is the parents who have to be targeted. It is necessary to create awareness among parents for the need of basic education and skill training. A small course in carpentry, tailoring or iron forging could help these kids bring a better income to the families.

Child labour may be unlawful but for poor families it sometimes becomes a necessary evil to keep their homes running. A better monitoring and deliverance of government welfare schemes is essential to ensure that it becomes beneficial to the needy and deserving. And this is one way we could overcome some of our problems like child labour, poverty and many others.

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5 Responses

  1. Shambhu Goel

    Child labor is a bane to human society. But in India all legislation for eradication of child labor elicits a re thought. You are hanging placards in trains”Discourage beggars”. You are having strictest laws against child labor.
    Government at the center or the state are making rather swearing to do away with this scourge. But what alternative does it provide for these empty stomachs, their hunger. The way law is pressed does it not require millions of stalls offering free food to these children. At the railway stations, bus -junctions, every street , every nook and corner of a village must have one or two such stops where the child can take one or two time meal of the day .
    A domestic servant who is a child whether male or female are facing atrocities st the hands of their lords , there is a legislation again for tackling such atrocities. They are fired, fined , sent to jail. But what for those owners of houses who apart from providing food and shelter to the child-worker, basic other necessities, like education at least by giving time teaching them at some hour of convenience in the house itself. What for those who adopt these children and make arrangement of their marriage to a proper partner and spend whatever they can and that too with sincerity. State Legislation do provide impeachment against such arrangements.
    When you have nothing in aid for their ill fate, why should the government brag so much against this custom . Symposiums, gatherings, lectures , are all the order of the day and our politicians are very eager to deliver nice words for the safety of children who are have-nots, their welfare and all aggressive words criticizing all such employers, when the politicians are the major section of the population who have these kids as their servant.
    Whatever said , I am of the opinion that in spite of our legislators who are going to watch FIFA world cup should be assigned to go to foreign land where they should be made to study the program of these countries for a deprived child . And translate that theory here in their action for such noble cause.

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  2. Soumit Saha

    All what you write is true.. But I’ve seen the quoting of our growth rate being contrary to what ‘s the real picture.. That shouldn’t be done.. Nation prospers but hitting out is unpatriotic..

    Now coming to the main issue.. I couldn’t agree less that how unaware ppl are when they say that child labour is by choice .. How can one ever choose that path, unless forced to..

    Implementation of Free education remains the prime importance but selfless individuals are 1 in a 100 in India.. that’s what stopping us..

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  3. Maria

    The public neglect of family planning has brought countries like India into the situation they are facing. Nowhere in the world can you provide a healthy and good upbringing of several children with an average family income. Since the sixties do European families have no more than two children on average and that has been a great advantage for all and improved the general living conditions immensely in the past decades.

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