“Why am I deprived of enjoying life, playing with friends and going to school? Why I am forced to carry the loads – washing plates, serving tea, moping cabs?”
With a bemoaning inner voice, these might be the questions that rise in the minds of children who are used to performing these jobs. After all, at an age where they should be carrying pencils, they are burdened to carry vessels, sponges, and what not.
“India, one of the leading countries in Asia has a whopping 33 million children employed in various forms of child labour. The world’s largest democracy is yet to ratify the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No 138) of the International Labour Organization (ILO), that lays down ground rules for employment of minors across the globe,” reports Moneycontrol.com
There are many dreadful stories about children who wish to fly in the sky, but are unfortunately spending a caged life. When I came across one such child, I asked him about his ambition. At first, he felt annoyed – but when I insisted, he replied, “I want to play cricket and become a cricketer.” Then he questioned me, “Can I become a cricketer?” I fell silent on hearing this.
I met another one at a tea stall, who was very witty in managing things around him. “What would like to have, brother?” he asked me. He may have been 12 or 14 years – but he was very energetic and full of life. He brought me a cold drink and some chips. Though I was very keen to know about his life, he was so busy that it took me around two hours to finally manage to talk to him. I asked him, “Are you happy with your job?” He said, “I have no other option – my father died when I was five years old. There is no one at home to earn except an ailing mother who often remains ill.”
There may be various causes of child labour – but the main ones are poverty and hunger. Unless we rectify these menaces, we will not be able to counter child labour.
“According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015” report, 194.6 million people are undernourished in India. By this measure India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. Also 48% of women between 15 to 49 years of age are anaemic (WHO report on prevalence of anaemia) and 44% of children under 5 are underweight. Malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria. The Global Hunger Index 2016 ranks India at 97 out of 118 countries on the basis of three leading indicators — prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under five years, under-five child mortality rate, and the proportion of undernourished in the population,” says a report published on India FoodBanking Network.
The report further provides some key facts about hunger in India:
1. India is home to the largest undernourished population in the world.
2. 15.2% of our population is undernourished.
3. 194.6 million people go hungry everyday.
4. 30.7% of children under five are underweight.
5. 38.7% of children under five years of age are stunted.
6. One in four children are malnourished.
7. 3,000 children in India die every day from poor diet related illness.
8. 24% of under-five deaths are in India.
9. 30% of neo-natal deaths are in India.
Laws like the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 provides for a complete ban on the employment of children below 14 years in all occupations and processes. It also prohibits the employment or work of adolescents in the scheduled hazardous occupations and processes.
But the reality of child labour and the mounting figures portrays a dreary and dull picture. Why? Because the laws alone cannot tackle this issue – the causes, like poverty and hunger, need to be eradicated simultaneously. Only then will we be helpful to those children who are craving for help.
Image used for representational purposes only.