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Child Labour In India: More Than 10 Million Children Affected

In all this world there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child.” – L Frank Brown 

A young girl working in a brick crushing factory in Dhaka. 17.5% of all children aged between 5–15 are engaged in economic activities. The average child labourer earns between 400–700 taka (1 USD = 70 taka) per month.

Have you wondered why a kid was selling flowers on the streets instead of going to school and studying? Many of us have, right? Every child in our society dreams of becoming a doctor, pilot, astronaut, engineer and so on, but at the same time, there are kids in a parallel society who dream of just getting food from time to time or quality education. Isn’t that weird? Yes, but that is the reality of the situation. Children are considered the most vulnerable group because they are innocent and believe whatever you tell them. 

Some parents take advantage of such a situation and get their kids involved in debt bondage, slavery, trafficking, etc. because of unemployment and poverty. Seeing this vulnerability, our government has tried to step up and came up with legislation that might benefit the children. But the main problem is execution. A person is considered to be a child if they are under 18 years of age. That is precisely why a citizen can vote or receive a license or enter into a legal contract when they turn 18 years of age. 

Marriage of a girl under 18 years of age and a boy under 21 years of age is restricted by the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. Moreover, after ratifying the UNCRC (The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child) in 1992, India changed its law on juvenile justice to ensure that every child, who needs care and protection, is entitled to receive it from the state.  

There are additional rights children have other than Fundamental Rights as a citizen of India:

  • Right to free and compulsory elementary education for children in the 6–14 year age group, given under Article 21 A.
  • Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years, given under Article 24 of Constitution of India.
  • Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength, given under article 39(e) of the Constitution of India.
  • Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and moral and material abandonment, given under 39(f) of the Constitution of India [1].

There are various other legislations that the government has come up with for the protection of child rights: POCSO (Prevention of Children from Sexual offences, 2012), Juvenile Justice Act (2015) and Child labour prohibition and regulation act (1986). My primary focus will be Child Labour. 

Child labour can be defined as the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful [2].

In 2011, the National Census of India found the total number of child labourers aged 5–14 was 10.1 million out of a total of 259.64 million children. The child labour problem is not unique to India; worldwide, about 217 million children work, many full-time. According to a BBC report, the main reason for child labour is poverty and lack of public educational facilities. It also focuses on how girls are more vulnerable to child labour as compared to boys. 

Another important cause here is debt bondage, also known as bondage labour. It is defined as a system of forced or partly forced labour under which the child or child’s parent agrees, oral or written, with a creditor. 

This is similar to child trafficking or child slave trafficking as it’s related to in-kind favours. Any violence against a child or child labour impacts the child in the long run, not only physically but mentally too. According to a report by the ILO (International Organization Survey), the impact that these might have on the children are:

  • Speech problem
  • Stealing
  • Premature deaths
  • Social and educational development of the child
  • Problematic behaviours develop — aggression, misconduct, substance use, sleep deprivation and related problems — falling asleep in school etc.
  • The unconditional worst forms of child labour are slavery, soldiering, prostitution, drug, trafficking, etc. which may have traumatic effects, including long-term health and socioeconomic effects [3].

There are many International as well as national organizations who are trying to provide these children with education and all the other necessities that are required for a child to live a happy life. 

states with highest number of child labours (In Lakhs) (census 2011)

The COVID-19 crisis has had an immense impact on the BPL (Below Poverty Line) segment of society. It has resulted in a huge number of families starving and has made it hard for them to survive. When survival is questioned, the education of children is secondary. This might increase the number of child labourers, debt bondage etc. There are many NGOs like CRY who have helped these families out even amidst the pandemic. Kudos to these NGOs who are trying to help these families in outlying areas. 

Now you know that life is not hunky-dory and it’s way more complicated and difficult. As was rightly said by William Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, men and women merely players: they have their exits and entrances and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” Let us be the person who plays many parts and contribute our bit for the underprivileged.


  1. Understanding Child Rights
  2. Child Labour 
  3. Impact of Child Labour on the Nutritional Level and Developmental 9-12 Years, Agarwal S
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  1. ananya iyer

    Love thiss❤❤🙌🏼

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