Child Labour – The Shame India Still Carries

Child Labour – The Shame India Still Carries

As all the world is looking at India as she flies high to become a new superpower in world, she still remains burdened with a shame she can’t shake off that easily. It is the shame of child labour. It is a socio-economic condition that has plagued India for ages and she is still struggling to come out of the same.

Child Labour – The Shame India Still Carries

Before we move further and discuss this topic with some details, let us take a quick look at some disturbing figures and facts about child labour problem in India. These facts and figures come from World Report on Child Labour (2015) by International Labour Organization as well as CRY’s analysis of 2011 Census data.

Rate of child labour in Indian One out of eleven children in India work..
States with highest child labour Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Rate of decrease of child labour From 2001 to 2011, child labour in India declined as a negligible rate of 2.2% per annum – this data came from CRY who analyzed census data of India.
Rural and urban concentration 80% of child labour is seen in Indian agrarian sector. 20% in urban sector.
Nature of rural employment Children work as cultivators or they work in household industries. Mostly they are involved in work that are house-based.
Approximate number of child labours in India 60 to nearly 115 million based on data released by human rights watch in 1995.
Hazardous work 20.7% of adolescent children work in hazardous work conditions.
Adolescent work force Adolescent children who are in the age group of 15 and 17 makes up to 62.8% of India’s total population of child labour.
Education status of adolescents 56% of the total adolescent work force in India are no longer studying.
70% of all adolescents who are involved in hazardous work are not studying any more.
Gender distribution It is estimated that more than 9 million girls and more than 40 million boys are involved in child labour in India.

If those facts and figures are not disturbing enough to open our eyes, nothing else will.

Child labour in India – a detailed look

India’s population is massive. Just how massive? The source here says that the population of children below the age of 14 years in India is bigger than the population of United States! We cannot verify the truth of this data but we can get an image that child labour in India is a serious problem.

80% or more of the child labour population in India is in rural India. They are mostly involved in works like animal rearing, animal husbandry, agriculture, fisheries, forestry etc. A significant amount of this child force (both from urban and rural sectors) are involved in hazardous activities like construction, firecrackers manufacturing, beedi manufacturing and more that adversely affects their health too.

Most of the child labor force in India is either uneducated or they have simply quit education after sometime.

Why is child labour in India prevalent? The causes…

Poverty is the number 1 culprit. It is not that parents of children in India enjoy sending their kids to work. They do so because they know that if the children do not work, not everyone will get food.

On top of that parents do not send their kids to school because even if they do, whatever is taught at schools is not good enough for survival. Such education doesn’t bring in food for everyone and hence, schooling is seen as a mere wastage of time. Parents think that their kids will be better off working and earning.

So yes, it is the poverty that is causing this problem. We cannot stop us from saying that government in India in the past has managed to only stare at the problem and do nothing beneficial to help those kids.

Child labour economics in India

Poverty forms a vicious cycle. It is really difficult to break out of it. The problem is that if child labour is taken out of equation, poor families will become even poorer. So, just putting bans on child labour is not the ultimate situation.

Not to forget, child labour in India is not just economic by nature. It is socio-economic! Discrimination, class, caste, culture – everything comes into play. In backward regions of India, one cannot make lateral moves in work even if there is a higher pay simply because of caste and religion problems.

The interwoven problem…

Okay, child labour is nasty and cruel. Surprisingly though, it has been found that children who work full time have better chances of surviving all the way up to adulthood because they get better meals. Those who work part time or do not work  or have been taken out of child labour, face the problem of food scarcity and suffer from malnutrition and eventually succumb to death.

Ways out of child labour?

Purely improving education or killing child labour practice will not help. India has to go out a full-fledged war not just against child labour but also against poverty. Taking care of poverty is important because it is poverty that leads to child labour.

Government needs to take a 360 degrees holistic approach which will address problems like poverty and its root causes, eradication of social problems like caste and religion, improvement of education quality and more.

Creating economic opportunities and social security is key but at the same time abolishing middle men who eat up the fruits of government policies is equally important. Accept it or not, government has done very little to nothing to streamline and improve distribution channels for social security benefits for poor segments of our society. As a result, some fraud people (including government officials and even politicians) kill all the efforts that are made to end poverty and child labour in India.

It is a grim scenario and unless a government comes in which works towards eliminating corruption, spreading education, improving employment opportunities etc. at the same time, the situation of child labour in India is not going to end anytime soon. Hitech cities will be build but only for the creamy layer of the society. Poor will remain poor and become poorer. Children will get sucked into labour and we will keep writing.

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