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Child Labour in India: A Study On What Is And What Should Be


STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

India is one of countries in the world where child labour still prevails – that too, rampantly.

Article 21A of the Indian Constitution ensures the right to free and compulsory education to children. But then, why should these children work instead of studying? I doubt if the prescribed age bracket can actually aid in the betterment of students.

At 14, a child should ideally be in class 8 – that too, if they haven’t failed. Do you think a class 8 education is sufficient to enable these children to lead a comfortable life, today, especially when government schools clearly aren’t providing the best of education? In fact, to even join a vocational training programme, you would generally need a matriculation certificate. Given these realities, how can the government even boast about the right to education? Therefore, in my opinion, the government should do away with the age bracket in its right to education.

When asked about going to school, an eight-year-old boy who lives under the Andrews Ganj flyover, said, “I don’t go to school.” When his mother was asked about this, she said, “We don’t have enough  money to live properly and eat. We live the life of  nomads. Then, how can we think about their education?” Their condition is really pathetic and the boy plans to engage in labour work to support the family, a few years down the line.

In contrast, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, seems to be progressive. However, an article in The Hindu says that even the new act suffers from many problems. For one, it has drastically reduced the number of hazardous occupations from 83 to just mining, explosives, and occupations mentioned in the Factory Act. Furthermore, even the ones listed as hazardous can be removed, according to section 4 of the act – not by the legislature, but by government authorities at their own discretion.

The National Food Security Act, 2013, makes provisions for providing free mid-day meals in primary and upper primary government schools. As such, it is one of the largest programmes of its kind reaching out to 120,000,000 children in over  1,265,000 schools.

But, despite all these government schemes and incentives, why does child labour still prevail? The answer is simple -improper implementation. After all, when it comes to implementation, the government machinery simply fails. And it is due to this reason that social welfare schemes fail to bring about the desired effects at the ground level.

When it comes to child labour in India, it is to be noted that poverty is the primary cause of this. According to a 2015 UN report, about 30 crore people live in extreme poverty. This poverty also contributes to ignorance among parents, which consequently forces children into labour.

High rates of unemployment in the past years have also led to the prevalence of child labour in India. So ,the government must take efficient methods to curb unemployment – because these are issues that later compound the problem of child labour.

Ignorance and lack of knowledge among these families leads to a hierarchical set up, which is highly resistant to changes. So, spreading social awareness among the parents seems to be a must. The children also need to be informed on the ill effects of working as labour from childhood, and attempts must be made to bring about a change in their lifestyles.

The practice of child labour bring about a lot of negative impacts on families and the society as a whole. The worst effects can be seen on the physical and mental well-being of these people. The children and their families are consequently are often led into the world of crime, which they use as a means to attain their otherwise unreachable desires and aspirations. To add to this, high levels of illiteracy and lack of guidance have led to the emergence of this unholy nexus between child labour and juvenile crimes.

A passive reception of these issues has never offered any great results. The government, with the support of the people, must ensure that these children can exercise their rights in a way that allows them to move their future in the right direction. For this, the government needs to take stock of the situation both before and after their laws. It also needs to ensure that the laws are properly implemented, with the help of officials who can ensure that the effects of the law reach every single person.

The society also needs to see to it that the government schemes and benefits actually reach the needy. After all, it is the society (as a whole) that becomes a victim of this menace.

Cases of child labour should be reported to the police. It is our responsibility to stop child labour, and instead help them with their education. As long as we do not incorporate them into the mainstream, the dream of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas‘ will only be a distant one.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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