Child labor is done by any working child who is under the age specified by law. The word, “work” means full time commercial work to sustain self or add to the familyincome. Child labor is a hazard to a Child’s mental, physical, social, educational, emotional and spiritual development. Broadly any child who is employed in activities to feed self and family is being subjected to “child labor’.
Child labor in India is a human right issuefor the whole world. It is a serious andextensive problem, with many childrenunder the age of fourteen working in carpetmaking factories, glass blowing units andmaking fireworks with bare little hands.According to the statistics given by Indiangovernment there are 20 million childlaborers in the country, while other agenciesclaim that it is 50 million.In Northern India the exploitation of littlechildren for labor is an accepted practiceand perceived by the local population as anecessity to alleviate poverty. Carpetweaving industries pay very low wages tochild laborers and make them work forlong hours in unhygienic conditions.Children working in such units are mainlymigrant workers from Northern India, whoare shunted here by their families to earnsome money and send it to them.
The situation of child laborers in India is desperate. Children work foreight hours at a stretch with only a small break for meals. The meals arealso frugal and the children are ill nourished. Most of the migrant childrenwho cannot go home, sleep at their work place, which is very bad for theirhealth and development. Seventy five percent of Indian population stillresides in rural areas and are very poor. Children in rural families who areailing with poverty perceive their children as an income generatingresource to supplement the family income. Parents sacrifice their children’seducation to the growing needs of their younger siblings in such familiesand view them as wage earners for the entire clan.
Bonded labor traps the growing child in a hostage like condition foryears. The importance of formal education is also not realized, asthe child can be absorbed in economically beneficial activities at ayoung age. Moreover there is no access to proper education in theremote areas of rural India for most people, which leaves thechildren with no choice.
The most inhuman and onerous form of child exploitation is the age old practice of bonded labor in India. In this, the child is sold to the loaner like a commodity for a certain period of time. His labor is treated like security or collateral security and cunning rich men procure them for small sums at exorbitant interest rates.
Bonded Child Lab ourThe practice of bonded child labor isprevalent in many parts of rural India,but is very conspicuously in the Velloredistrict of Tamil Nadu. Here the bondedchild is allowed to reside with hisparents, if he presents himself for workat 8 a.m. every day. The practice of childbonded labor persists like a scourge tohumanity in spite of many laws against it.These laws although stringent andproviding for imprisonment andimposition of huge fines on those whoare found guilty are literally non-functional in terms of implementation.
Adult unemployment andurbanization also causes childlabor. Adults often find it difficultto find jobs because factory ownersfind it more beneficial to employchildren at cheap rates. Thisexploitation is particularly visiblein garment factories of urbanareas. Adult exploitation ofchildren is also seen in manyplaces. Elders relax at home andlive on the labor of poor helplesschildren.
Child labor is a reality in spite of all the steps taken by the legal machinery to eliminate it. It prevails and persists as a world phenomenon in spite of child labor laws. The causes of child labor in the contemporary world are the same as those in U.S. hundred years ago- namely poverty, lack of education and exposure, poor access to education, suppression of workers rights, partial prohibition of child labor and inadequate enforcement of child labor laws. The existing law and codes of conduct regarding child labor are blatantly violated by the beneficiaries and the victims of this terrible practice all over the developing world. There are ambiguities in the export and manufacturing sector, which means multiple layers of outsourcing and production- making the monitoring of labor performers not only difficult but impossible. Extensive subcontracting also makes it impossible to identify the use of child labor whether intentional or unintentional.
The Indian constitution categorically statesthat child labor is a wrong practice, andstandards should be set by law to eliminateit. The child labor act of 1986 implementedby the government of India makes childlabor illegal in many regions and sets theminimum age of employment at fourteenyears.There are many loop holes in this law interms of affectivity. First is that it doesnot make child labor completely illegaland does not meet the guidelines set byILO concerning the minimum age foremployment, which is fifteen years.Moreover the policies which are set toreduce incidences of child labor aredifficult to implement and enforce. Thegovernment and other agenciesresponsible for the enforcement of theselaws are not doing their job.
Kenya prohibits children under 16 from going to work in industries butexcludes agriculture. Bangladesh also specifies a minimum age to go to work,but excludes agriculture and domestic work.Indeed laws become unpractical and redundant in the face of necessity. Poorchildren and their family members depend so much on little ones to providethe basic necessities of life in the impoverished areas that it becomesimpossible for them to adhere to any laws and regulations regarding childlabor. We must also remember, that about one fifth of the world’s six billionhumans live in absolute poverty.