Witness to deplorable pictures in our daily lives, we live in a country where Ramu works at Highway Dhaba instead of attending school. Days of learning and playing are spent carrying heavy burdens on their frail and tender shoulders. After 65 years of Article 24 of the Indian Constitution, it remains only a paperwork and the evil of child labour thrives. On my way to home from college, seeing a boy working at tea-stall I kept wondering why he has to do this despite the various programs and initiatives by Government like Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, and National Literacy Scheme. He works at a time when he is supposed to be in school laying the foundation of his career.
The root cause of this child exploitation is poverty. India’s 75% of the population belongs to agrarian class and 22% lie below poverty line. The children come from the social strata where their families cannot afford even the basic necessities of life and in need of more hands to income, make the children work at sundry places. Even various policies on eradicating illiteracy have no repercussions on this section.
Labour is required, with more labour, more productivity and productivity is the key to country’s economic growth. But labour in the form of child labour, is it acceptable. Labour versus the labour rate is unbalanced in the country. The services and work are done at a cheaper rate, below the standard labour rate, thus promoting child labour in the various unorganized sectors. To be in touch with the main stream and easy availability of jobs, they migrate to cities which has ended with Dharavi being the biggest slum. The Government should plan and work on these to create employment opportunities for their families.
The need of the hour is sustainable economical development where the basics of domestic development that is drinking water, healthcare, education, sanitation should be focused. Constant income flow can avoid the families from forcing their children to work. Improving the living standards of the weaker sections, increasing the human index, reducing the inequalities in asset distributions and overcoming the regional/state disparities can help to root out child labour. The Government announced plans to expand the National Child Labour Project across the country during the 11th Five Year Plan. The scheme under which children withdrawn from work are sent to special schools.
The children come from the families where it is imperative to work. A distinction should be made between forced labour and working in family’s cottage industries, paddy fields etc. The Government should frame special courses in the schools so that along with continuing their education, they can work with their families supporting the income. It is difficult for them to stop working and get into the schools. Gradually doing both will help them to grow as individuals and become economically independent. In the future generations they won’t force their children to work thus eliminating child labour forever.
To root out child labour from the society we need committed citizens who can work at grass root levels and bring smiles to many underprivileged children like Ramu in the years to come.