Child Labor

Child laborers – The Cheap Commodity of India

Shiva, an eight-year old orphan was reported dead on June 29, 1993, after he was caught escaping and then beaten and scorched to death by his employer.

In another incident, 446 children were rescued from over 200 zari shops in the glamorous city of Mumbai, while 25 children were rescued from an ill-lit small room converted into a zari factory in the national capital, New Delhi.

The 1991 Census carried out by Government of India states that there are 11.28 million working children under the age of fourteen years in India. Advocacy groups suggest the real figure could be as high as 60 million.

With figures from varied sources giving verdict, India is known to have the largest number of working children in the world. A research carried out by Save the Children, shows that 74 percent of child domestic workers in India are between the ages of 12 and 16, most of them working at measly wages.

          Toiling in the heat of stone quarries, working in the fields for long hours, picking rags in city streets or stashed away as domestic servants, these children are sentenced to a life of misery, suffering and horrors.

In most of the Indian industries, girls are recognized as unrecognized laborers because they are seen as Help & Supporters and not workers. Hence, this section remains almost totally unprotected by law.

The Background

Welfare organizations define a child laborer as a child who has to work everyday, sometimes for more than 14 hours a day and is not paid as per norms.

          The International Labor Office reports that children work the longest hours and are the worst paid of all laborers.

The Child Labor Act of India prohibits employment of children less than 14 years of age in 13 occupations and 57 processes. The law also lays down penalties for employment of children in violation of the provisions of this Act and regulates the employment of children with respect to working hours, number of holidays, health and safety in workplace.

Nevertheless, the menace continues to grow unbridled. No doubt, the industries and the families of such children share the blame, but the onus lies first on the lawmakers and watch-guards of our society and nation.

Child labor presents itself in a series of forms of labor involving children. These include:

  • Domestic servants
  • Forced and bonded labor
  • Commercial sexual exploitation
  • Industrial and plantation work
  • Street work
  • House hold work

Experts point out towards the following as being the root cause of the rampant child labor scenario in India:

  • Poverty
  • Family debt
  • Administrative attitude
  • Easier and cheaper availability of child laborers
  • Social mindset

In a prominent uproar, the National Human Rights Commission also (NHRC) issued notices to the Delhi government over reports of continuing instances of child labor in the Capital despite the ban.