The Social issue of Child Labour


The children should not have to work is universally accepted, but there are no universal answer why the problem of child labour persist and how it needs to be tackled. India is faced with the crucial task of eliminating the child labour which is prevalent in all spheres of life. Thousands of children are engaged in the carpet factories, glass factories and other hazardous industries all over the country.

The term child labour has generally two-fold interpretations. Firstly, it is implied to be an economic necessity of poor households and secondly, the explosive aspect in children‟s work concerned with the profit maximizing urge of commercial establishment wherein children are made to work for long hours, paid low remuneration and deprived of educational opportunities.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines child labour to “… include children leading permanently adult lives, working long hours for low wages under conditions damaging to their health and physical and mental development, sometime separated from their families, frequently deprived of meaningful educational and training opportunities that could be open up to them a better future”.

Reasons For Child Labour:
There are many reasons for the existence of child labour and it varies with place and place to place. In India, poverty is one of the important factors for poverty, but it‟s not the sole factor. Children provide cheap labour, the person who wants labour has to pay less to them than adult labour. The child can be commanded more than an adult. The pull factor of the child labour is the profit maximization.

The main causes to failure to control the child labour are; poverty, low wages than adult, unemployment, absence of schemes for family allowance, migration to urban areas, large family size, children being cheaply available, non existence of strict provisions for compulsory education, illiteracy, ignorance of parents and traditional attitudes.

Child Labour In India:
India accounts for the second highest number where child labour in the world is concerned. Africa accounts for the highest number of children employed and exploited. The fact is that across the length and breadth of the nation, children are in a pathetic condition.

Child labour in India is a human right issue for the whole world. It is a serious and extensive problem, with many children under the age of fourteen working in carpet making factories, glass blowing units and making fireworks with bare little hands. According to the statistics given by Indian government there are 20 million Child labours in the country, while other agencies claim that it is 50 million.

The situation of Child labours in India is desperate. Children work for eight hours at a stretch with only a small break for meals. The meals are also frugal and the children are ill nourished. Most of the migrant children, who cannot go home, sleep at their work place, which is very bad for their health and development. Seventy five percent of Indian population still resides in rural areas and are very poor. Children in rural families who are ailing with poverty perceive their children as an income generating resource to supplement the family income. Parents sacrifice their children‟s education to the growing needs of their younger siblings in such families and view them as wage earners for the entire clan.

In Northern India the exploitation of little children for labour is an accepted practice and perceived by the local population as a necessity to alleviate poverty. Carpet weaving industries pay very low wages to Child labours and make them work for long hours in unhygienic conditions. Children working in such units are mainly migrant workers from Northern India, who are shunted here by their families to earn some money and send it to them. Their families dependence on their income, forces them to endure the onerous work conditions in the carpet factories.

While experts blame the system, poverty, illiteracy, adult unemployment; yet the fact is that the entire nation is responsible for every crime against a child. Instead of nipping the problem at the bud, child labour in India was allowed to increase with each passing year. And today, young ones below the age of 14 have become an important part of various industries; at the cost of their innocence, childhood, health and for that matter their lives.

Indian Constitution And Child Labour:
Article 23 of Indian Constitution prohibits the trafficking in human beings and forced labour. And Article 24 prohibits the employment of children in factories. It says that No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

The general understanding was that right secured by Article 24 will hardly be effective in the absence of legislation prohibiting and penalising its violation. However, Supreme Court clearly stated that Article 24 “must operate proprio vigour” even if the prohibition lay down in it is not “followed up by appropriate legislation.” In Labourers, Salal Hydro Project v. State of J&K it was again held that the employment of children below 14 in construction work violates Article 24.

It was noted in M C Mehta v. State of Tamilnadu, that menace of child labour was wide spread. Therefore it issued wide ranging directions in the context of employment and exploitation of children in Sivakasi, prohibiting employment of children below the age of 14 and making arrangement for their education by creating a fund and providing employment to the parents or the able bodied adults in the family. These directions were reiterated in Bandhu Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, concerning the employment of children in carpet weaving industry in U.P.

The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Also the State shall, direct its policy towards securing the given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment to the children.

Article 45 of Indian Constitution made provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years. As per this Article the State shall endeavours to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.