Child labor is described as a phenomenon where children are employed in different workplaces and made to work for long hours. As per Indian law no one can employ children in any work below the age of 14. Children between the age of 14 and 18 can work but not in any hazardous occupation such as mining, inflammable substance, explosive work and any similar activity as per the Factories Act, 1948. The children are exploited, abused and exposed to hazardous work conditions and paid very less amount against their hard labor. The Indian Constitution prohibits child labor and declares it a criminal offence. But despite the presence of legal prohibitions child laborers are employed in a variety of industries and services. Child laborers are mostly employed in weaving and garment making, domestic service, mining, agriculture, food and refreshment services (out of which tea stalls are most common) and many more activities. Children are also trafficked, forced into prostitution, sexual activities, child pornography making and lots more illegal activities. These children are severely exploited and deprived of their basic rights. They never know what a childhood means.
Causes of Child Labor in India
According to Census 2011 there are total 10.1 million child laborers in India. Out of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls. Many factors influence as well as force children to become laborers. The common obvious causes are poverty, social insecurity, emergency, financial instability within the family, discrimination, lack of awareness and lots more.
Poverty and economic insecurity are the primary reasons that force many children in India to become child laborers. One in five persons in India falls below the poverty line. This is why children belonging to the extreme poverty stricken families are bound to work and make some money to survive. But in many instances it has been also found that most of them do not have families. In such situations the children become more vulnerable to encounter worst situations. This could be becoming destitute, facing severe crimes, getting involved in criminal activities and many more. This is the reason they have to work and earn some money for food.
Another reason for existence of child labor is the easy availability of labor. This is created and nurtured by the various groups for their vested interest to get cheap labor. This is how the employers engage children in precarious working condition and squeeze their labor. These children are ultimately exploited with money and exposed to unsafe work environments. The carpet industry earns huge money from child labor. (Ram Ahuja, 2014).
The nature of child labor in India
CRY- Child Rights and You reports that child labor in India is decreasing at the rate of only 2.2% per year over the last decade. This means that it is not possible to eradicate the problems related to child labor so soon. It is not likely to end even in the next century. There has been increase in the number of child laborers by 53% in the urban areas over the period of 2001-2011. The reasons can be migration to cities by the families for employment opportunities, trafficking of children, requirement of sufficient income to survive in big cities, etc. 80% children work in rural areas where they are involved in agricultural activities, cultivation, domestic work and lots more. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have more than 50% children employed as child laborers. It has also been found that 11 states in India witnessed an increase in the figures of working children. Out of which the leading states are Kerala, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. According to sources Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of child laborers with more 20% of working children residing in the state itself. Most of them work in silk industry which is commonly available in the state.
Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits the act of employment of any child below the age of 14. Children between the age group of 14-18 have been described as adolescents under this act. They are allowed to work but can’t get involved in any hazardous occupation as per Factories Act, 1948. Article 24 of the Indian Constitution states that no children below the age of 14 shall be employed to work in any factory or other hazardous working condition. Article 39(f) declares protection of childhood and youth against exploitation as well as moral and material abandonment. There are many more legal provisions to protect children from getting involved in child labor activities. The legal provisions should be implemented properly whenever and wherever necessary so that the children are saved from the horrible conditions of child labor. Education should be made accessible to all so that children from all sections of the society get educated and become aware of their rights. Besides, vocational training should also be included in the curriculum of educational institutes. This can help them to get employment opportunities as soon as they become adults. Appropriate steps and certain policies should be introduced by the state so that children get proper facilities to learn and live with dignity.