Child labor is one of the most prevalent term one has heard off. It means sacrificing childhood of a child by exploiting him to perform hazardous works to earn money. According to last census, children workforce was 10.1 million (3.9% of total child population) Out of which 5.6 million were boys and 4.5 million were girls. However, there has been decrease in child labor of about 2.6 million from 2001-2011. Though, there has been improvement, but the fact cannot be denied that 10.1 million is a large number, more than population of some countries. Therefore, there stands a strict need to act upon child labor at earliest.
There are various reasons of why a child is forced to do child labor which are as follows. Poverty is one of the key reasons for child labor in India. Even today, more than 50% of Indian population is living below poverty line. India ranks 102 as per Global Hunger Index. There are no means of earnings for poor, which leads to stepping out of children to meet their meal.
Education stands as the key to resolve Child Labor, but certainly, the ill mindset of some people, prevents children from being educated. Out of the total children not being sent to school for free education, 53% are girls, taken out of school, because of the ill belief that women are meant to serve household. Less than one third children who register themselves for class 1 reach class 8, the reason being that education is not given importance by their parents.
Today, there are more child labors in urban area, than the rural area, and the only reason is that the urban areas are growing daily, wherein it is very difficult to survive for a poor family, even the regular income of rural areas is unable to fulfill the needs in urban area, due to which despite not wanting, child is constrained to work.
The mindset of people has evolved over a period of time but some of the people are still under the belief that earning money at smaller age by exploiting their children is a better option than educating him. The best way to get rid of a problem is to attack its root cause, which can be best done by implementations of strong laws:
Strict laws have been made to protect children from child labor.
- Factories Act, 1948: The act prohibits the employment of children below 14 years, however there has been a relaxation for pre-adults (15-18), but the government guidelines has to be strictly followed.
- Mines Act, 1952: The act prevents from employing anyone below 18, as mines stands to be the most hazardous workplace, witnessing various accidents, the age has been increased to 18
- The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation Act), 1986: The act prohibits from employing a child below 14 years at hazardous workplaces.
- Juvenile Justice of Children Act, 2000: This act made child labor a crime, and the employer could be punished with imprisonment up to 2 years or fine of Rs.50000 or both.
- Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: The law mandates free education of children aged 6-14 years, and reserves 25% seats in private schools. But, there stands a strict need of execution of such laws in order to prevent Child Labor.
Indian Constitution guarantees rights exclusively for children, Article 21A and Article 24 grants children right to free and compulsory education and right to be protected from employment at any hazardous workplace before age of 14. All the legislations/acts are just an expansion to these rights. But, their rights do not end here, Child rights include the right to health, family life, play and recreation, an adequate standard of living and to be protected from abuse and harm.
Every child should be given the right to choose the way of living their life. Parents are keen on making their child do work and earn money, and the student being uneducated does not know his rights and thus is unable to help himself.
Every child who earns money cannot be said to be a victim of Child Labor, there are certain profession wherein earning of money by a child has been considered as a normal activity and not a child labor. Such activities are acting of a kid for a movie, taking care of family business and in return getting rewards. These work do not qualify for child labor.
Apart from the legislations introduced by the government, we as citizen have rights and duties to eradicate child labor in our country. Website has been launched named “pencil.gov.in”, wherein we as citizens if find any child, below 14 years working can register his/her complaint online, famous organization ChildLine Foundation, which has been working for child rights for many years have also launched a website to register complaints online and help the children. Other than this, a toll free no. 1098 has also been issued by the government, which works 24×7 across India.
We have been living in such a society for a long time wherein we see child labor in front of our eyes, but we do not act accordingly. Child Labor is a crime, and the legislations passed by government shows their awareness and the laws framed stand to be strong and flawless, but until and unless the general public takes up the responsibility to report illegal activities, we cannot admire a place where every person can live his life freely. Thus laws are always there in service of people, but it is the moral duty of people of India who need to step out and act ad responsible citizens to help eliminate not only Child Labor, but other illegal activities.