ByÂ Sharvi Mewada:
I hated the compulsory social service that I had to do to get some college credits. However, if it hadn’t been for that, I would have never perceived the graveness of this issue. Child labour is actually becoming more prevalent day by day. I came across at least five children of less than 10 years of age who indulge in intensive labour.
Child Labour, consisting of children below 14 years of age, is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as the type of work performed by children that deprives them of their childhood and their dignity, which obstructs their access to education and attainment of skills and which is performed under conditions harmful to their health and their development, both physical and mental. In layman’s language, any work of intense manner done by children below the age of 14 years which affects them in their growth and development.
It’s ironical that when we are sitting at a roadside dhaba, discussing the severity of this issue, a small child comes and clears away the table. Child labour exists in all forms, everywhere. In a country like India, where almost half of the population is below poverty line, it becomes necessary for each member of the family to work. Some even work to pay through their education or simply to earn enough to sustain themselves away from home. Working in fireworks factories, diamond industry, as domestic helpers or even as beggars, these children are not only deprived of education, but also a safe, playful and smooth childhood. And in such cases, the child labour is exploited. They work under unsafe and unhygienic conditions which are too dangerous and inhuman for anyone to work in. Even after working, they get less than half the salary that they are normally entitled to. Big gangs also train children to steal, as they are small and can fit through most of the windows.
The government has implemented many laws to prevent this exploitation of children. The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (1986) bans employment of children in occupations related to hazardous and tedious jobs (Beedi factory, crackers factory, construction etc). The violation of the act can result in punishments ranging from imprisonment for one month to two years or a fine. However, being such a vast country, keeping a check on all of them is not possible. There are certain flaws in the government system. In such cases, NGOs like Child line, Care, Cry, Pratham etc. play an important role.
But the most important job in ensuring prohibition should be carried out by reach one of us, every citizen of the country. Consciously or sub-consciously, we tend to use their services. Despite knowing that it is banned, many of us have domestic helpers who are children. We have a tendency to buy stuff they come to sell in the locals or give money to small beggars, unknowingly encouraging them to continue. The least we can do personally is sponsor a child’s education, see to it that if in extreme conditions he/she has to work, he/she is credited what he/she is sanctioned to. One can always approach NGOs or the governments’s Child Labour Commission and ask for their help.
Child labour is a common problem in India. It won’t eradicate over the night. But little help, little changes, make a big difference, which we can bring about as aware citizens of India.