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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

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

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.

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.

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.

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