PROGRESSIVE ABOLITION OF CHILD LABOUR


 “What I am today is because of education and I want every Indian child to be so touched by the light of education”

-Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh.

          Children are the future custodians of all the present philosophies including sovereignty, rule of law, justice, liberty, fraternity and international peace and security.  The human rights jurisprudence categorically recognized the rights of the child.  The Declaration of Geneva in 1924 gave a clarion call that Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give”. The Universal Declaration of Human rights rightly obliges family, as a fundamental unit of society, to focus on children so as to afford them necessary pre-conditions to growth.  Article 24 of the UN declaration Provides: “Every Child shall have the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State”.  It is now universally recognized that for a comprehensive development of its personality, the child should grow in a family environment and in an atmosphere conducive to care, affection and understanding.

           The Industrial revolution, which led to urbanization, has been responsible for changes in family structure.  The concept of child labour is also directly attributable to the developments in the industrial production process following the industrial revolution.  Labour and human dignity can be considered as purchasable at cheapest possible price.  Poverty of parents led to children offering themselves for work in highly exploitative conditions.  These children of lesser god witness the forfeiture of their childhood without fully knowing themselves the trauma of work life and its impact on their mental and moral development.

Reasons for Development of Child Labour:

          Chronic Poverty is the most important factor for the prevalence and perpetuation of child labour.  Nearly half of the India’s total population subsists below the poverty line.  India stands 2nd position in the employment of child labour while Africa stands in the first position.  In this situation, the child, since its very appearance in the world, is endowed with an economic mission.  Economic compulsions weigh so heavily on poor parents that they do not mind colluding with the child’s employer in violating the laws and placing the child under risks of inhuman employment situation.  Poverty and child labour always beget each other and tend to reinforce each other.  Other reasons are disenchantment with and a lack of faith in the educational system as schooling does not guarantee a job.  There is also a deeply ingrained Indian tradition that a girl child is to work in the house with the mother and the boy is to learn the father’s trade.  Though in the organized and the unorganized sectors there is no dearth of adult labour, employees prefer hiring children as they are more amenable to discipline, too young to organize themselves and fight for their rights, can be paid less and bullied to obedience.  The lack of concern within the community indifference among the middle class adults to their social surroundings and the existence of exploitative elements result in the erosion of the natural rights of the poor children.  The fact that the children cannot speak for themselves makes them easy targets for exploitative working conditions and wages. 

          Still another reason for the ever increasing child labour is said to be, the accelerated pace of mechanization of agriculture which pushes the surplus farm labour to the cities in search of livelihood.  A survey conducted by the commission of child labour in Kolkata revealed that socio-economic conditions of the families compelled children to come in search of employment.

          Analyzing the reasons which prompt the children to work, it was shown by experts that as many as 47.5 percent of child workers did so, not so much because of poverty but because of the fathers force them to leave school and join work while they themselves either sit idle, or want the extra money to satisfy their various addictions.  In some cases, it is reported that the children themselves compare the advantages of continuing education with joining the labour force and decide in favour of the latter because of the dignity, freedom and responsibility which they get as a contributing member of the family.  On the other hand, some children admitted that they pushed into this, and left to themselves they would like to pursue their education.  The increasing number of child labourers also indicates the failure of family planning, especially in the poverty belts.

          In a case of employment of children below 14 years of age in carpet industries in the State of Uttar Pradesh, Supreme Court held that state is under obligation to provide socio-economic justice to the children and render facilities and opportunities for development of their personalities.  In Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India, 1997 Lab IC, 2107 the Supreme Court held that basic cause of child labour is poverty instead of total abolition shall have adverse affect and should be banned progressively in a planned manner.

             In Hindustan Times dated 1st August, 1984: Statement made by the Minister of State for labour in the Rajya Sabha, on 30th July, 1984 is published it was stated that there is a concentration of child labour in certain industries such as match works in Tamil Nadu, Carpet industry in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, State quarries in Madhya Pradesh , diamond cutting in Gujarat, glass and bangle in Uttar Pradesh, tea Plantation in West Bengal and brassware in Uttar Pradesh.

           Samithu Kothari made a study into facet of child labour, the working conditions of children engaged in the match works at Sivakasi in Tamilnadu.  He rightly captioned the work:  “There is blood on those match sticks”.  Blood stains are there, not only on the match-sticks but also on other materials, the carpets in your drawing room, the slabs of slates used in your house, the diamonds adding glow and glory to a well cared figure, the glass and bangles than given glitters to the dress and the body, the brass-ware in your house, and even in the tea you sip”.

VARIOUS ACTIVITIES PERFORMED BY CHILD LABOUR:

Child Labour in the Agricultural Sector:   According to a recent ILO report about 80% child labourers in India are employed in the agriculture sector. The children are generally sold to the rich moneylenders to whom borrowed money cannot be returned.

Street Children : Children on the streets work as beggars, they sell flowers and other items, instead of being sent to school. They go hungry for days to gather. In fact, they are starved so that people feel sorry for them and give them alms.

Bonded Child Labour :  This is also known as slave labour and is one of the worst types of labour for children and adults, alike. In fact, in 1976 the Indian Parliament enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act; herein declaring bonded illegal. However, the fact remains is that this system of working still continues. According to certain experts approximately 10 million bonded children labourers are working as domestic servants in India. Beyond this there are almost 55 million bonded child labourers hired across various other industries.

Children Employed At Glass Factories :  According to recent estimates almost 60,000 children are employed in the glass and bangle industry and are made to work under extreme conditions of excessive heat.

Child Labour in Matchbox Factories :  Of the 2,00,000 labour force in the matchbox industry, experts claim that 35% are children below the age of 14. They are made to work over twelve hours a day, beginning work at around 4 am, everyday.

Carpet Industry Child Labour :  According to a recent report by the ILO almost 4,20,000 children are employed in the carpet industry of India.

The Other Industries :  According to researchers there are about 50,000 children employed in the brass industry of India and around the same amount in the lock industry.

          The children of poor parents are more an economic asset than a liability.  When child labour recruiting agents go about in the flood or drought hit areas offering loans, it is not uncommon that poor parents surrender their children to them, by availing of the loan facilities to ensure the survival of the family.  The failure to implement strictly child labour prohibition laws is the non-universalisation of compulsory primary education but with the implementation the Right to Education Act, 2009 this drawback of the proper non implementation of child labour laws shall hope to be overcome in India.

             While Child labour is the product of poverty and unemployment, it further contributes to underdevelopment and unemployment.  It contributes to unemployment, because the existence of child labour, results in the increase of adult unemployment; and to under development, because a child labourer by the time he becomes as adult, is fully burnt out.  The encouragement of child labourers to work and contribute towards the family income, prompts parents to have more children.  Thus child labour defeats the goal of family planning.  Child labour also hinders the prospect of implementing the policy of compulsory primary education which is now made important by the implementation of the Right to Education Act, 2009.

Position in Developed Countries and in India:-

          In the developed countries in the west, child labour could be checked through effective enforcement of ‘Prohibition of Child labour’ laws, and compulsory primary education.  In most developing countries, however, millions of children still work in factories, workshops, agriculture, mines, quarries and service enterprises.  It is estimated that child labour makes up “more than 10% of labour force in some countries of middle east and from 2 to 10% in much of Latin America and some parts of Asia.  The world considers the issue of child labour to be a rather serious one in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there are a set of experts in Africa who do not consider it to be serious and prefer to sweep it under their carpet in order to look into more ‘serious’ issues. There are still others who prefer to wear a blindfold and believe that child labour issues are far more serious in other nations, whereas it is as good as non-existent in their own nation. However, ILO statistics provide a more serious picture. It states that over 40% of the children of Africa are working. They are mainly working as slaves in private households, apart from other industries. So the African people do not believe it as a serious issue.  While the picture, as we see is grim, yet nothing can really be done as there is no consistent or factual empirical evidence where child labour in Africa is concerned.

          The problem of child labour in India is very acute.  The National Sample survey in 1983 estimated that there were 17.8 million child workers in India in the age group of 5 to 15 years.  Operation research Group placed the figure at 44 million in 1983.  It has been estimated by the Planning commission that by the year 2000, India has 20 million child workers (UNICEF 1994). Recent Survey on Child Labour shows that 10% of the total population in India is child labour and from all the States in India, Andhra Pradesh occupies 1st position with constituting 16% of total child labour is in it.  Mostly working children were belonging to the families of extremely poor.  They work in highly exploitative and stressful conditions including bonding situations.

           China accounts for the third largest number where child labour is concerned. In fact, many think it to be a phenomenon that has just begun to surface. However, the fact is that child labour in China has been there for years. This is so despite that there have been strict official regulations that ban employment of minors. And according to the laws of China, a minor is an individual below the age of sixteen-years. Due to poverty, teenagers and younger children have been migrating to the southern and coastal regions of China. This is because these regions have been developing and provide a lot of opportunities to earn.

Definition of Child Labour:-

          The actual number of child labour vary according to different concepts and definition as to what exactly child labour means.  The National Sample Survey defined “Child Worker as a Person below the age of 14 years, who is wage earner”.  The concern for working children, a Bangalore based Organization, described a child Labourer as a person who has not completed fifteen years of age and is working with or without wage on a part time or full time basis.  It estimated that a number of working children in India is close to 100 million.  Most of the work done by children whether with or without wage does contribute to the economic activity of the household to them.

           Often school going children also will be working as part time workers in some factories.  This also may not be taken into account by the census.  Even child labour is banned in certain industries by enacting specific legal provisions for the abolition of child labour the employers may not reveal to the census enumerators, facts and figures regarding the number of child workers.  Most often parents also collude with the employer lest the child loses the job.  Domestic work such as cleaning, cooking, which is unpaid and is considered unproductive, other domestic works such as grazing cattle sowing, weeding, threshing or assisting the parents in house hold crafts, etc may not be taken into account by the census enumerators.  Other facts such as pledging the labour of the children against a loan, working in road side cafes, automobile workshops, construction sites, etc., also may not come under the purview o f the census.  It may also ignore self-employed children who are working in the areas of shoe-shining, rag–packing, newspaper selling, peanut or fruit vending.  However the estimated data shows that 10% of the total population of India is child labour.  Many steps are being taken by the Indian Government from the pre-Independence period for the eradication of this drastic problem but still now the problem remains unsolved and the number of child labour were growing day-by-day due to poverty.

Legal Steps for the Prevention of Child Labour:-

          To discuss about the child labour prevention laws in a vide way one must go through those laws by dividing the laws from its origin in pre-independence or post-independence periods.  Most of the pre-independence laws prescribed punishment for the child labour to the parents of the child and also employer but the post- independence laws exempted the parents from punishment.

A.Pre-Independence Laws:-

          The origin of statutory protection of child labour in India can be traced back to the Indian Factories Act, 1881.  This law is mainly regulated working hours, rest intervals, minimum wages and nature of work of child labour but it does not prevented the employment of children.

          Later on the Children Act, 1933 was enacted to prohibit the pledging of labour of children below 14 years by parents.  It prescribes Punishment for parents and employer of the child labour.  It imposes minimum fine of Rs. 200 to the employer for employing child labour and also Rs.50 for the parents who pledged their children for the labour.

          In the Year 1938 the Employment of Children Act was enacted to prohibit the employment of children below the age of 14 years in specified hazardous occupations.  This Act specifically prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age in the railway and other means of transport.

B. Constitutional Provisions:-

          Article 15(3) of the Indian constitution enables the state to make special provisions for women and children.  It contains an exception to prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, etc as contained in Article 15(1).  Article 23 prohibits traffic in human beings and other forms of forced labour.  It is provided in Article 24 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”.

          Apart from the fundamental rights related to children, certain directive principles in the constitution direct the state policy and action in relation to child rights, including employment and education of children.  Article 39 directs the state to so direct its policy “ that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age or strength” and “ that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that children and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment”. 

          In pursuance to the duty laid down in the above case some of the laws were enacted prohibiting the employment of children below 14 years of age.  However this Article does not prohibit the employment of children in any innocent or harmless job or work.

         The framers of the Constitution realizing the importance of the children and their education have imposed a duty on the State under Article 45 as one of the directive principles of the State Policy to provide free and compulsory education to all children until they complete the age of 14 years within the 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution.  The object was to abolish the illiteracy and child labour from the country.  It was expected that the elected government of the country would honestly implement this directive.  The framers perhaps were of the view that in view of the financial condition of a new state it included it in Chapter IV as one of the directive principles of State Policy.  But the politicians of our country belied the hope of the framers of the constitution.  It is unfortunate that it has taken 52 years from the commencement of the Constitution to initiate some measures by amending the Constitution to start with although 40% of the population is still illiterate and 10% of the total population is working as child labour.

          In the meantime, the Supreme Court in Unnikrishnan case declared that the right to education for the children of the age 6 to 14 years is a fundamental right.  Even after this, there was no improvement.  A demand was being raised from all corners to make education a fundamental right.  Consequently, the government enacted Constitution (86th Amendment) Act 2002 which would make education a fundamental right.  The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act has added a new Article 21A after Article 21 and has made education for all children of the age of 6 to 14 years a fundamental right.  It provides that “the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine”.

C. Post-Constitutional Laws:-

          After attaining the Independence India enacted the Factories Act in the year 1948, under section 19 of this Act Children below the age of 14 years are prohibited from employment in the factories and the employers who are employed such children are liable to be punished with imprisonment or fine or with both. 

          Later on Some of the provisions in the enacted laws like the Plantation Labour Act, 1951; the Mines Act and the Indian Factories Act, 1952; the Motor Transport Act and the Apprentice Act,1961;  the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Atomic Energy Act; The Shops and Establishment Act; The Beedies and Cigar Workers (Condition and Employment) Act, 1966 prohibits the employment of children below a certain age.

          In 1986 the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 (CLA) was enacted with a view to rationalizing earlier legislation on child labour, progressive elimination of child labour in hazardous employments, and regulating conditions of child labour in non-hazardous industries.

          In nutshell, the Child Labour Act bans the employment of children below 14 years of age only in certain specified occupations and processes, regulated the conditions of work of children in employments where they are permitted to work; seeks to provide a uniform definition of child in related laws, and prescribes enhanced penalties for employing children in violation of the provisions of this Act and other legislation which prohibit employment of children.  In effect, this does not make any departure from its predecessor law, the Employment of Children Act 1938, so far as abolition of child labour is concerned.

          One major loophole that is visible is that work or process carried on by the occupier with the aid of his family has been taken out of the purview of the Child Labour Act.  Thus, it permits employment of children in hazardous processes, if a process is undertaken by any of their family members.  That is how many clever employers have installed looms from carpet weaving in children’s homes.  Beedies too are largely manufactured in this way.  Matches and fireworks also thrive this way with the aid of child labour.  

          The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is now the principal central law relating to employment of child labour.  The Central and “State governments, of late, are showing vigorous concerns for the plight of child labour.   A large project with the help of the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is being undertaken by the National Labour Institute, NOIDA for training of labour and factory inspectors for a stricter enforcement of this law.  The whole emphasis is put on the honesty of inspectors and “Punishment includes imprisonment” of erring employers.  It appears that the word “hazardous” is treated purely as having physical implications.  The very concept of child labour snatches away from a child his childhood and should be considered as hazardous and thus violative of Article 24 of the Constitution.   The Child Labour Act fails to take note of the aspect that the working child unknowingly experiences a psychological trauma of adulthood without physically being prepared to bear its onslaught.  It is also incomprehensible why the Act does not even specify the minimum age of employment of children in processes and occupations where the child labour is not prohibited.

D. Precedents:-

                    In People Union for Democratic Rights V. Union of India AIR 1983, Sc 1473, it was contended that the Employment of Children Act ,1938 was not applicable in case of employment of children in the construction work of Asiad Projects in Delhi since construction industry was not a process specified in the schedule to the Children Act.  The court rejected this contention and held that the construction work is hazardous employment and therefore under Article 24 no child below the age of 14 years can be employed in the construction work even if construction industry is not specified in the schedule to the Employment of children Act, 1938.  Expressing concern about the ‘sad and deplorable omission’, Bhagwati,J., advised the State Government to take immediate steps for inclusion of  construction work in the schedule to the Act, and to ensure that the constitutional mandate of Article 24 is not violated in any part of the country.

           In Labour Working on Salal Hydro Project vs. Jammu and Kashmir AIR 1984 SC 177, the Court has reiterated the principle that the Construction work is hazardous employment and children below 14 cannot be employed in this work.       

           A Child is a national asset; it is the duty of the State to look after the child with a view to ensuring full development of his personality.  Emphasizing the significance of the dignity of youth, and childhood in a civilized society, Bhagawati, C.J. observed in Sheela Barse and others vs Union of India and others (1986) 3 SCJ 423 that some years ago our country came out with a National Policy for the welfare of Children which contained the following perambulatory declaration:  “The Nation’s children a supremely important asset.  Their nurture and solicitude are our responsibility.  Children’s programme should find a prominent part in our national plans for the development of human resources, so that our children grow up to become robust citizens, physically fit, mentally alert and morally healthy, endowed with the skill and motivations needed by society.  Equal opportunities for development to all children during the period of growth should be our aim, for this would serve our large purpose of reducing inequality and ensuring social justice”.

Main features of the Supreme Court  in  their Judgment dated 10.12.96 

On 10th December 1996 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.465/1986 the Supreme Court of India, gave certain directions on the issue of elimination of child labour. The main features of judgment are as under:

-        Survey for identification of working children;

-        Withdrawal of children working in hazardous industry and ensuring their education in appropriate institutions;

-        Contribution @ Rs.20,000/- per child to be paid by the offending employers of children to a welfare fund to be established for this purpose;   

-        Employment to one adult member of the family of the child so withdrawn from work and it that is not possible a contribution of Rs.5,000/- to the welfare fund to be made by the State Government;

-      Financial assistance to the families of the children so withdrawn to be paid -out of the interest earnings on the corpus of Rs.20,000/25,000 deposited in the welfare fund as long as the child is actually sent to the schools;

-      Regulating hours of work for children working in non-hazardous occupations so that their working hours do not exceed six hours per day and education for at least two hours is ensured. The entire expenditure on education is to be borne by the concerned employer.

-            The implementation of the direction of the Honourable Supreme Court is being monitored by the Ministry of Labour and compliance of the directions have been reported in the form of Affidavits on 05.12.97, 21.12.1999, 04.12.2000,  04.07.2001 and 04-12-2003 to the Honourable Court on the basis of the information received from the State/UT Governments.   

 

 

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act:

          After the enactment of the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act 2002 the State Provided protection to the Children from the age 6 to 14 years from the child labour by providing compulsory education but it has taken another 8 years for the passage of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), which was passes by the Indian Parliament on 4th August 2009, describes the modalities of the provision of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 years in India under Article 21-A of the Indian Constitution.  With the enactment of this legislation India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the Act came into force on 1st April 2010.

          The first time in the history of India a law was brought into force by a speech by the Prime Minister.  In his speech, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India stated that, “We are committed to ensuring that all children, irrespective of gender and social category, have access to education.  An education that enables them to acquire the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes necessary to become responsible and active citizens of India”.

          The RTE Act if implemented properly will be much effective than any other previous laws which were enacted specifically to prohibit the child labour.  It its common sense the Right to Education Act main objective is to provide the free and compulsory education to all the children in India between the aged of 6 and 14 years but it indirectly imposes a duty on the State by the term COMPULSORY that all the children between the age of 6 to 14 years must be surely educated.  So it in an indirect way throw  light on the eradication of the child labour by making education compulsory to all the children between the ages of 6 to 14 years.

COMPULSORY EDUCATION:-

          The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002 and the Right to Education Act, 2009 specifically provides that it is the mandatory and primary duty of the State to provide free and compulsory education to the children below the age of 6 to 14 years. It is indirectly restricts the children from doing any other activity when they were in the age between 6 to 14 years.  Also it provides for free education where it makes the education to be available to the poor people.  Mostly the child labour were belong the children of the poor people.  Due to their economically backward condition parents were unable to feed the children and the work of the child will also become useful to make their both ends meet in a difficult way.

          The Act clarifies that “Compulsory Education” means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen years age group. “Free” means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. 

          The ultimate objective of development of any country must be the improvement of the quality of life of its people.  One of the mechanisms of enhancing the quality of life of its people is acquired by means of education.  The compulsory education provided by the Right to Education Act 2009 to the children between the ages of 6 to 14 years is very much useful to enhance the quality of the people.  Child labour shall be prevented by making use of the compulsory education provision. 

Government Policies:

          So as to be in consonance with the constitutional provisions and the United Nations (UN) Declarations on the Rights of the child, the Government of India adopted the National Policy for Children (NPC) in August 1974.  This Policy provided that “It shall be the policy of the state to provide adequate service to children both before and after birth and through the period of their growth, to ensure their full physical, mental and social development.  The State shall progressively increase the scope of such services so that, within a reasonable time, all children in the country enjoy optimum conditions for their balanced growth.”  This policy does seem to admit that a child is entitle to enjoy his childhood through play, learning, getting a parental emotions, love and nutritional and health care.  Toward this the National Policy envisaged the need for “free and compulsory education for all children upto the age of 14 years, provisions for health and nutritional programmes and services, providing alternative forms of education for children unable to take full advantage of formal school education for whatever reasons, and measures for protecting children against neglect, cruelty and exploitation.”  Ironically however, the Government only lays emphasis on regulation of child labour than concentrating on abolishing it altogether.  By making use of the Right to Education Act, 2009 the provision of compulsory education is very much useful to abolish the child labour by providing free and compulsory education to all the children below the age of 14 years. 

         The provision for regulation of the child labour which is constituted in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 in present situation shall be need to amend as the Right to education Act enacted in 2009 is providing compulsory education to all the children below the age of 14 years.  At present situation there is no need to regulate the child labour.

          While focusing on the general development action programme, the National Policy envisaged utilization of non-formal education.  The National Commission on Labour also recommended arrangements to combine work with education through non-formal schemes.  It has also provided for linking these programmes with schemes of public libraries.  The policy identified to specific sectors of employment where the incidence of child labour is high.  It involved a six-point package to tackle the problem of child labour.  The government plans to establish special schools in these areas so as to not only provide education and vocational training but also take care of the nutritional care and needs of working children.

          The National Policy on Child Labour (1988) suggested that children employed as part of the family should be treated differently from those outside the family set-up.  Its strategy aimed at including the families of child workers in antipoverty programmes, arranging special programmes for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes whose children have to undertake wage labour and imparting compulsory formal or non-formal education to all children, particularly those employed in hazardous industries.

          The German funded programme, Child Labour Action and Support Project was launched in 1992.  The German Government had given an initial contribution through the International Labour Organisation.

           The Government is also implementing the International Programme for Elimination of Child Labour.  The Programme was launched in January 1933.  33 action programmes under this have been approved and more proposals are under consideration.  One project with an ‘integrated’ approach aims at rehabilitating 5,000 children every year from the carpet trade.  Of course, the Indian Government is spending annually Rs.10 crore on ten national level pilot projects in priority industries to wean away child labour and rehabilitate them.  The government has drafted a Bill to ensure equal wages for the minor and adult workers.  The move meant to make employment of child labour less lucrative.

          One way to minimize the incidence of child labour is to enhance the school enrollment by making proper utilization of the recently enacted Right to Education Act, 2009.  It enables the poor people to access school and attains free education upto the age of 14 years. Another recent initiative of the Indian Government is Sarva Siksha Abhiyan launched in 2001, universalizes the elementary education by community ownership.  Rajiv Vigyan Mission is also helpful to provide education for the needy children.  Rajiv Udyog Mission is taking part in providing employment to the children who are attained 14 years by ensuring sufficient training in the skilled work Project Based Plan of Action envisages starting of projects in areas of high concentration of child labour. Pursuant to this, in 1988, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme was launched in 9 districts of high child labour endemicity in the country. The Scheme envisages running of special schools for child labour withdrawn from work. In the special schools, these children are provided formal/non-formal education along with vocational training, a stipend of Rs.100 per month, supplementary nutrition and regular health checkups so as to prepare them to join regular mainstream schools. Under the Scheme, funds are given to the District Collectors for running special schools for child labour. Most of these schools are run by the NGOs in the district.  

Government has accordingly been taking proactive steps to tackle this problem through strict enforcement of legislative provisions along with simultaneous rehabilitative measures. State Governments, which are the appropriate implementing authorities, have been conducting regular inspections and raids to detect cases of violations. Since poverty is the root cause of this problem, and enforcement alone cannot help solve it, Government has been laying a lot of emphasis on the rehabilitation of these children and on improving the economic conditions of their families.  

The coverage of the NCLP Scheme has increased from 12 districts in 1988 to 100 districts in the 9th Plan to 250 districts during the 10th Plan.

 Strategy for the elimination of child labour under the 10th Plan:

        An evaluation of the Scheme was carried out by independent agencies in coordination with V. V. Giri National Labour Institute in 2001. Based on the recommendations of the evaluation and experience of implementing the scheme since 1988, the strategy for implementing the scheme during the 10th Plan was devised. It aimed at greater convergence with the other developmental schemes and bringing qualitative changes in the Scheme. Some of the salient points of the 10th Plan Strategy are as follows:

  • Focused and reinforced action to eliminate child labour in the hazardous occupations by the end of the Plan period.
  • Expansion of National Child Labour Projects to additional 150 districts.
  • Linking the child labour elimination efforts with the Scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan of Ministry of Human Resource Development to ensure that children in the age group of 5-8 years get directly admitted to regular schools and that the older working children are mainstreamed to the formal education system through special schools functioning under the NCLP Scheme.
  • Convergence with other Schemes of the Departments of Education, Rural Development, Health and Women and Child Development for the ultimate attainment of the objective in a time bound manner.  

The Government and the Ministry of Labour & Employment in particular, are rather serious in their efforts to fight and succeed in this direction. The number of districts covered under the NCLP Scheme has been increased from 100 to 250, as mentioned above in this note. In addition, 21 districts have been covered under INDUS, a similar Scheme for rehabilitation of child labour in cooperation with US Department of Labour. Implementation of this Project was recently reviewed during the visit of Mr. Steven Law, Deputy Secretary of State, from the USA. For the Districts not covered under these two Schemes, Government is also providing funds directly to the NGOs under the Ministry’s Grants-in-aid Scheme for running Special Schools for rehabilitation of child labour, thereby providing for a greater role and cooperation of the civil society in combating this menace. 

Elimination of child labour is the single largest programme in this Ministry’s activities. Apart from a major increase in the number of districts covered under the scheme, the priority of the Government in this direction is evident in the quantum jump in budgetary allocation during the 10th Plan. Government has allocated Rs. 602 crores for the Scheme during the 10th Plan, as against an expenditure of Rs. 178 crores in the 9th Plan. The resources set aside for combating this evil in the Ministry is around 50 per cent of its total annual budget.  

The implementation of NCLP and INDUS Schemes is being closely monitored through periodical reports, frequent visits and meetings with the District and State Government officials. The Government’s commitment to achieve tangible results in this direction in a time bound manner is also evident from the fact that in the recent Regional Level Conferences of District Collectors held in Hyderabad, Pune, Mussoorie and Kolkata district-wise review of the Scheme was conducted at the level of Secretary. These Conferences provided an excellent opportunity to have one-to-one interaction with the Collectors, who play a pivotal role in the implementation of these Schemes in the District. Besides, these Conferences also helped in a big way in early operationalisation of Scheme in the newly selected 150 districts.

                The Government is committed to eliminate child labour in all its forms and is moving in this direction in a targeted manner. The multipronged strategy being followed by the Government to achieve this objective also found its echo during the recent discussions held in the Parliament on the Private Member’s Bill tabled by Sri Iqbal Ahmed Saradgi. It was unanimously recognized therein that the problem of child labour, being inextricably linked with poverty and illiteracy, cannot be solved by legislation alone, and that a holistic, multipronged and concerted effort to tackle this problem will bring in the desired results. 

Forward Steps:-

          The ideal scenario on Child Welfare would be when every child enjoys the fullness of childhood through education, recreation and adequate health facilities.  It is impossible to attain these facilities by the child labour.  All the children were able to enjoy the completeness of childhood only

  • when the true conscience of the nation is awakened;
  • when all the policy makers and the bureaucrats take the issue of child labour seriously and commit themselves to the cause of the holistic development of every child in India;
  • when the employers would not even contemplate the idea of employing a child for any work which might deny the child of a normal childhood;
  • when all the parents will become aware of the jeopardy of child labour and take upon themselves the duty of caring for the physical, social and psychological and mental development of the child;
  • When all the Policies laid down by the Government under Various Plans and Laws were implemented properly ;
  • The government and the legal persons must conduct campaigns to make the people educate about the legal provisions existing for the abolition of the child labour.

     References:

  1. Baland, Jean-Marie and James A. Robinson (2000) ‘Is child labor inefficient?’ Journal of Political Economy 108, 663–679
  2. Basu, Kaushik, and Homa Zarghamee (2009) ‘Is product boycott a good idea for controlling child labour? A theoretical investigation’ Journal of Development Economics 88, 217–220
  3. Bhukuth, Augendra. “Defining child labour: a controversial debate” Development in Practice (2008) 18, 385–394
  4. Emerson, Patrick M., and André Portela Souza. “Is Child Labor Harmful? The Impact of Working Earlier in Life on Adult Earnings” Economic Development and Cultural Change 59:345–385, January 2011 DOI: 10.1086/657125 uses data from Brazil to show very strong negative effects–boys who work before age 14 earn much less as adults
  5. All India Reports 1983, 1984, 1996, 1997.
  6. 10th Indian National Five Year Plan
  7. Humbert, Franziska. The Challenge of Child Labour in International Law (2009)
  8. Humphries, Jane. Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution (2010)
  9. ILO, Investing in every child: An economic Study of the Costs and Benefits of Eliminating Child Labor

10.  www.vvg.nli.org

11.  Kirby, Peter. Child Labour in Britain, 1750-1870 (2003)

12.  labour.nic.in

13.  Ravallion, Martin, and Quentin Wodon (2000) ‘Does child labour displace schooling? Evidence on behavioural responses to an enrollment subsidy’ Economic Journal 110, C158-C175


About Laasya Priya Ponnada

Student of LL.B. Final Year

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