Understanding Child Labour Issues and Challenges in India

Friday 19 February 2016
India is home to a large number of child labourers in the world. The 2011 national census of India found the total number of child labourers, aged 5 - 14, to be at 4.35 million, with many of them working full time or performing hazardous jobs. Broadly speaking “child labour” constitutes work that robs children of their childhood and mars their potential and dignity. It is work which is detrimental to their physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially and morally taxing for children. Child labour also disrupts children’s education which involves either children leaving school entirely or combining school attendance with excessively long and heavy work. 

Even almost seven decades after independence, the problem of child labour continues to persist in almost all parts of India. Thousands of children are pushed into child labour every year. When a child gets involved in work to supplement his family’s income, his childhood suffers great damage. Child labour is a direct violation of children’s inalienable rights to protection, participation and development.

Causes of Child Labour
Poverty continues to remain a major cause of child labour in India. Due to severe economic hardships faced by numerous families in rural and even urban areas of India, they do not hold their children back from picking up work so that they (children) can generate income for the household. In several cases, parents and guardians are themselves seen pushing their children into it who are viewed as a “source of income”.

Another factor fuelling the problem of child labour is the lack of quality education in various parts of India. Many communities, particularly the rural ones, are devoid of adequate education facilities.  The number of schools is less and the student-teacher ratio abysmal. In several cases, schools are faraway, difficult to reach and unaffordable. Sometimes, the quality of education is so appalling that the parents are unwilling to let children continue studying. This overall prevalence of illiteracy and lack of awareness leads to rampant child labour.

Challenges and Possible Solutions
It is important to bring more and more awareness in the public domain about the problem of child labour in India. A change in mindset in required at the grass root level and in all sections of the society. The message needs to be loud and clear: no child is meant to be employed.   The Government, media and NGOs must come together to work out holistic solutions in this regard.

The child labour problem is one of the most serious socio-economic issues of modern-day India, something which needs immediate attention of our lawmakers and civil society organizations. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this problem whose expanse in so vast in India. A long-term, multi-pronged strategy implemented on a regular basis is the need of the hour.  The government of the day needs to implement stringent laws which entail blanket ban on child labour and stricter punishment for those employing children. At the same time, strengthening of primary education facilities is also imperative so that children go to school and stay there. Rehabilitation of former child labourers through which their childhood is restored and they are moved to the path of education will also help bring down high levels of child labour in various parts of India. Another major inhibitor for child labour would be the upliftment of the society in general and overall improvement of their economic status. If a household has a good income, the children coming from it are less likely to resort to child labour.

The Role of NGOs
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are playing a key role in curbing child labour in India. They work at the community level to prevent children getting stuck in labour. Those wishing to contribute their bit in fighting this problem can donate money to NGOs working in this area. While donating money to NGO they are also eligible for donation rebate in income tax.

In India, Non Governmental Organizations like Save the Children are working in several states to map children involved in child labour and work for their movement to schools. Last year alone, we removed as many as 7000 children from the fold of child labour. Through the by our support across India, we have been working with the most disadvantaged local communities, we sensitize and educate them about the rights of children and help them realize that a child belongs to school and not to any field or a factory.

Child labour is a menace and we must contribute our bit in eliminating it. Supporting an NGO like Save the Children to combat the social ill of child labour is one of the ways ahead.