Child labor is a serious and complex problem in India which is rooted in poverty. The position of India in terms of child labor is not an appreciable one, with a credible estimate ranging from 60 to 115 million. According to a Campaign Against Child Labor (CAC) 2001 study, India had 12.6 million child laborers. However, this number has now been decreased decreased to 4.35 million.
The main causes of child labor are- lack of educational opportunities, poverty and lack of literacy among the parents, with poverty being the single most dominating stimulant of child labor. Child labor is a serious threat to economic growth. Uneducated children of today cannot contribute much to the economic prosperity of the country.
A National Policy on Child Labor was formulated in 1987 and the Government of India has taken several initiatives to completely eradicate child labor. Due to the lack of co-operation from the society, child labor is still a major problem for the government. On 29th August 2013, more than 400 children in New Delhi (capital city), marched to the Parliament demanding the passage of the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, which would prohibit hazardous work for all children below 18 years. It will also ban any employment of children below 14 years thereby aligning with the Right to Education Act. The Right to Education Act is one of the most powerful right any citizen can have.
Thus, India has seen a dramatic fall in child labor in the last two decades. The Indian laws include the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, The Factories Act, The Mines Act, etc. The government should decide to ensure that the Child Labor laws are properly followed.
Since 2015, India has made progress in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. More than 35,000 children were rescued from hazardous work conditions and were rehabilitated by the National Child Labor Project. State governments located approximately 30,000 missing children, during two rescue and rehabilitation operations. Moreover, several websites and schemes were launched to allow the public to report and search for missing children.
India a Founding Member of the ILO (International Labor Organization), has been a permanent member of the ILO Governing Body since 1922. The first ILO Office in India started in 1928. The ILO’s overarching goal is Decent Work, i.e., promoting opportunities for all women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and dignity.
The policies are framed by international labor conference, which meets once a year in June, in Geneva, Switzerland. This year, in the conference India ratified two international conventions against child labor, which is a step taken towards complete prohibition of child labor. ILO Director-General Guy Ryder welcomed India among the member states party to the two fundamental Conventions.
Labor and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya on the sidelines of an event held in Geneva at the labor conference said-
“It is a historic moment for India as we are going to take another giant step to affirm our commitment for a child labor free India by ratifying the two core conventions of International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions 138 regarding admission of age to employment and Convention 182 regarding worst forms of child labor”.
“Government of India has been working in a concerted manner to eliminate child labor from the country by following a multi-pronged strategy by including both stringent legislative and project based approach”
India’s ratification of Conventions 138 and 182 “solidifies further in treaty obligations – that commitment to the global fight against the scourge of child labor in all its forms. They also represent a positive step on the country’s path towards full respect for fundamental rights at work,” he added.
This amendment now completely prohibits employment of children below 14 years in any occupation or process and prohibits the employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years) in hazardous occupations and processes. Further to achieve the goal of child labor-free society India has strengthened the National Child Labor Project, which is a rehabilitative scheme providing bridge education and vocational training to budding students.
“The momentum of the recent initiatives taken to eradicate child labor has to be maintained as the elimination of child labor is also crucial for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Dattatreya said.
India is looking forward to eliminating this social evil practice. It’s very sad that the second most populous country and a progressive nation is facing this problem since many decades. Child labor is an act against human rights as well as humanity.
In the past few years, work done by the Government of India and the States Government in this issue is praiseworthy. Many new schemes and policies have been introduced for the education and betterment of the children. However, no efficient solution has been found yet owing to the lack of awareness and non-cooperation by the masses. Child labor is a socio-economic national problem, which requires a close analysis and practical solutions.