There are five states which are India’s biggest child labour employers – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Over half of India’s total child labour population works here. India’s biggest hub of child labour is Uttar Pradesh and it accounts for almost 20% of India’s child labourers. According to a Campaign Against Child Labour (CAC) study, India has 1,26,66,377 child labourers of which UP has 19,27,997 child labourers.
Reduction in child labour over the course of time
India has seen a dramatic fall in child labour in the last two decades:
2004-2005 to 2009-10
For example, there was a marked 45% reduction in child labour between 2004-05 and 2009-10, due to schemes like Right to Education, MNREGA, Mid-Day Meal, which gave children an incentive to study. The role of NGOs was also important in bringing about this fall in child labour. For example, Save the Children, which is widely hailed as the best NGO for charity has been working in the cotton farms of Maharashtra to mainstream the child labourers into schools.
The numbers from 2014
In 2014, there were even more optimistic signs – the number of child labourers decreased by 65% – from 1.26 crore to 82.2 lakh between Census 2001 to and Census 2011. This was part of an answer to a Rajya Sabha question about child labour, which also revealed that India’s capital had seen over 1500 child labour rescues between 2013 and 2014.
Fighting hazardous occupation – a critical short term measure
While successive governments have fought to end child labour, a short-term initiative worthy of mention here is the efforts undertaken to eliminate child labour in hazardous occupations and processes. The 2014 National Child Labour Project (NCLP) scheme, enforced in 1988 in areas of high concentration of child labour sees children (9-14 years) rescued from hazardous occupations and given enrolment in NCLP training centres. These centres offer bridge education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend, healthcare services – all as a precursor to mainstream formal education. The scheme was rolled out in 24 districts in Odisha.
Pan-India child labour: important findings
Child labour is prominent in rural India – 80% of working children live in India’s villages, where most of them work in agriculture. Some of them also work in household industries and are employed in home-based businesses. Children between 14-17 years engaged in hazardous work account for 62.8% of the India’s child labour workforce, 10% of whom are hired in family enterprises. Over half of working adolescents do not study. This number is higher for adolescents doing dangerous work. It is not surprising that more boys than girls (38.7 million vs. 8.8 million) are forced into doing hazardous work (according to International Labour Organization’s World Report on Child Labour 2015).
Save the Children – ending child labour in India
According to Census data, there are over 82 lakh child labourers (aged between 5 – 14 years) in India. Save the Children aims to make child labour not only redundant by a variety of schemes to empower children, but also to make it “socially and culturally unacceptable”. In the fight against a hidden and pervasive form of child labour, Save the Children has successfully withdrawn 50,000 child domestic workers from domestic help. Just last year, the NGO rescued 9337 children from the clutches of child labour. Today, the NGO has operations across 2000 villages and 9 Indian states dedicated to free children from exploitative working conditions, give them rehabilitation for the physical and psychological trauma of brutal working conditions. For all this it relies on donations. Going beyond a donation rebate in income tax, it is the desire to help every Indian child be the best they can be that should compel you to be a part of this change.
Child-Friendly Spaces during calamities and disasters
One of cruellest hubs of child labour is the site of any calamity or emergency. While children are vulnerable in such situations, there is the constant eye of child traffickers who seek to swoop in and steal them from refugee camps. Save the Children, via its Child Protection Programmes, protects such children, as well as others from different kinds of harms – abuse, neglect, exploitation, physical danger and violence. Child-Friendly Spaces are created for children to give them a safe environment to overcome the trauma. In 2014, Save the Children kept 1.65 lakh children away from harm.
Child protection through Children’s Groups
Save the Children works with the disadvantaged local communities, providing them information and awareness regarding children’s rights and the importance of education for them. Children Groups formed by the NGO are taught to find useful solutions that help other children, fighting issues like child marriage, child trafficking, child abuse and the need to save child labour afflicted children. Similarly, preparedness programmes for disasters are designed to be child-centric.
Rescuing at-risk children
At-risk children, including those who are out-of-school, surviving on the streets, and already engaged in child labour are led to schools via enrolment drives. For older children (above 14), Save the Children initiates skill-based vocational training to find them meaningful employment.
Creating opinion and changing policy
Policy and law changes can only be brought about by changes in perspective, via providing child labour information. As the aforementioned numbers show, child labour is no small problem in India. This has enabled the NGO to demand policy and legislative action to abolish child labour.
Every child deserves to be in school and not work in fields and factories. There can be no rhyme or reason to child labour. Support Save the Children’s initiatives to pull children out of child labour and send them to school.