It has been seventy years that India gained independence. Since then, the country has emerged as one the world’s largest and flourishing economies. But despite its wealth, India is the home to largest number of child labor in the world. “Being the future citizens of nation and bearers of our legacy, the skills and capabilities of these children will stimulate development of a new era in the long run. The country’s transition into a knowledge-based economy entails a new generation of adept and proficient workforce. Thus, it is imperative to nip Child labor in the bud”, says Jagmohan Garg, a leading Delhi-based real estate tycoon.
According to Save the Children India, a leading NGO that works for rights of children, 33 million children from ages 5 to 18 are working — and almost one third of this group are under 15.
The term “child labor” includes all the jobs that deprive children of their childhood. It is a major social ill that has engulfed the happiness, joy and innocence of various children across the country. According to UNICEF, there has been a 54 per cent increase in urban areas in children aged 5 to 14 who are working.
He also states that, in imparting education lies a pragmatic solution to the perceived problem of child labor. He firmly believes in the philosophy of Nelson Mandela, which says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Various economic theories also suggest that this issue can be eradicated through education and development. This calls for an easy access to education with equity and great emphasis on the quality.
Jagmohan Garg emphasizes that numerous laws have been implemented to keep a check on child labor and encourage education in the country. It has been addressed by the Child Labor Act, 1986 and National Child Labor Project. An act requiring all children between the ages of 6 and 14 to attend school was passed in 2009. It was followed by an amendment to existing child labor legislation by the Indian Parliament that imposed a widespread ban on children under 14 working and increased penalties for employers.
The Indian Constitution Article 24 and Article 39(f) hold that, no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or in any hazardous employment and the youth is to be protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment, respectively.
However, despite these laws, the effort to eliminate this practice is losing momentum. Thus, in order to stamp out this social ill, it becomes important to ensure appropriate measures for strengthening the education system, expanding its reach to everyone.