The problem of Child Labor in India

The problem of Child Labor in India

News: The 111th annual conference of ILO, held in Geneva from June 5-16, 2023, served as a platform for worker, employer and government delegates from the organisation’s 187 member states to discuss a wide range of issues, including a just transition towards sustainable and inclusive economies, quality apprenticeships and labour protection.

Background:
• World Day against Child Labour was observed on 12th June. Theme – Social Justice for All, End of child Labour.
• The agriculture sector accounts for 70 per cent of child labour (112 million), followed by 20 per cent in services (31.4 million) and 10 per cent in industry (16.5 million). Nearly 28 per cent of children aged 5-11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12-14 years involved in child labour are out of school. (Census 2011)
• A total of 10.1 million child laborers are found in India. (Census 2011)
• India’s biggest child labour employers are – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

What is Child Labour?
• A form of modern slavery, child labour includes any work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity, and physical or mental
development. (ILO)
• The practice includes trafficking, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and exploitation in armed conflicts.
• Article 24 of the Indian constitution prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or employed in any hazardous employment.

What is the impact of Child labour?
• It diminishes children's ability to accumulate skills and knowledge, affecting their future productivity and income.
• It perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty (child labour → poor education, health → less economic opportunities → poverty), denying children their fundamental rights and a better future.
• It weakens social development and cohesion within a country, impacting stability and democracy.
• It exposes children to physical (injuries, health complications and long-term developmental issues) and mental harm (anxiety, emotional trauma and a sense of hopelessness).

How has pandemic exacerbated the issue of Child Labour?
• Rise in informal jobs, loss of Guardianship, migration, school closures and factors such as unemployment, inequality and hunger issues has forced children to work.

What are the initiatives taken to curb Child labour in India?
• Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986) - Bans the employment of children below 14 years and adolescents below 18 years in hazardous occupations and processes.
• The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 - It prohibits systems of labour where people, including children, work under conditions of servitude to pay off debt, and also provides a framework for rehabilitating released labourers.
• Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 – It seeks to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children.
• National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme - It seeks to provide non-formal education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend and health care to the rescued children and then mainstream them into formal schooling system.
• Pencil Portal - The platform aims at engaging the Central Government, State Government, District, civil society and the public in eradicating child labour to achieve the target of a child labour free society. It was launched by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
• The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill - The MWCD published the Draft of the Bill in 2021, detailing measures to prevent, protect and rehabilitate victims. There are specified penalties for offences divided into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”. It widened the scope of “victims” to include transgender persons.

Way Forward
• Sufficient measures to ensure that all children have access to free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 years, as per the Right to Education Act 2009 and Article 21A of the Constitution.
• Increased collaboration with civil society organizations, media, corporations and citizens to raise awareness about the harmful effects of child labour and the importance of child rights.
• Be prepared for instances that increases the incidence of children ending up doing child labour – For example, war like situation, pandemic, natural disasters, extreme poverty and health care. 

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