In the developing world the problem of child labourers has spread like a tsunami. Just like in tsunami, how one by one wave usually comes and leaves behind scenes of destruction; in the same manner every child who is exposed to child labour, one by one, moment by moment they go far away from their joyful childhood. They are exposed to more hazardous work for some pennies. They are not just giving their time for those pennies; in fact they are losing their future and childhood. The children who are working in shops and homes don’t have any idea that the works which are they doing will lead them to the pit of helplessness.
In India this situation is more pitiable then most other countries. Most of the cases of child trafficking take place in the rural areas. On the other hand in urban areas this condition is becoming more and more serious. In the past few years the cases of kidnapping has risen with a leap. The kidnapped children are usually collected on one place and from there they are used for begging and to do the different types of hazardous works.
In the Indian Constitution it has been explained that:
(a) No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any hazardous employment (Article 24)
(b) Childhood and youth are to be protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment (Article 39 (f)).
(c) The State shall Endeavour to provide within a period of 10 year from the commencement of the Constitution free and compulsory education for all children until they have completed the age of 14 years (Article 45).
According to a survey conducted by a Research Group sponsored by the Ministry of Labour, Government of India (1986) has reported that of the estimated 102.3 million households in the country, 34.7% had working children.
Seventy nine per cent working children are in the rural areas. Two thirds of the working children belong to the 12-15 years age-group and the rest are below 12 years. A survey conducted by the Operations Research Group (ORG) Baroda (Vadodara) in 1985 had put the figure of working children at 44.5 million.
The Basic Nature of the Child Labour
A majority of the working children are found in rural area. In urban areas, they are found in canteens/restaurants, or are found engaged in picking rags and hawking goods on foot-path. But some children are working in highly hazardous conditions. Many of the children could be seen on the red lights begging for their appetite.
For examples fireworks and match box units in Sivakasi in Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu employ 45,000 children. A large number of children are working in stone polishing units in Jaipur, brassware industry in Moradabad, lock making units in Aligarh, Slate- industry in Markapur (Andhra Pradesh), Mandsaur (Madhya Pradesh) and the carpet-making in Jammu and Kashmir.
Some Government’s Policies for Enacting Laws against Child Labor
The first Act to regulate the employment of children and their hours of work was the Factory Act of 1881. A Commission was established in 1929 to fix the minimum age of child employment, on whose recommendation, the Child Labour Act 1933 was passed prohibiting employment of children below 14 years of age.
The Factory Act of 1948 provided some safeguards to child labourers. In 1986, the Parliament enacted the Child Labour Act (Regulation and Prohibition), planning the employment of children in certain jobs and regulating the condition of work in hazardous occupations. The Juvenile Justice Act came into force on October 2, 1987 after superseding different Children’s Act of different States/UTs.
India has ratified six International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions relating to labour and three of them as early as in the first quarter of the 20th century. Through a Notification dated 27 January 1999, the Schedule to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, has been substantially enlarged bringing the total number of occupations and processes listed in the Schedule 13 and 51 respectively.
The National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987 which enforces legal actions to protect the interests of children, makes development programmes for the benefit of child labour and projects based plan of action in the areas of high concentration of child labour. National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) has been set up to rehabilitate child labour.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in their meeting on January 20, 1999 approved continuance of the scheme of National Child Labour Project (NCLP) during the Ninth Plan. The CCEA also approved the increase in the number of such projects from 76 to 100.
The Government’s commitment to address the problem of child labour is reflected in the statement of National Agenda for Governance (1998), where it says that no child should remain illiterate, hungry/lack medical care and that measures will be taken to eliminate child labour.
The Supreme Court of India in its judgement dated December 10, 1986 has directed to pay compensation of Rs 20,000 by the offending employers for every child employed in hazardous occupations. Efforts will be made to modify the existing National Child Labour Project under the Ninth Plan.