Child Labour in India: A Theoretical Perspective

 

Gopal Krishan

Assistant Professor of Pol. Sc., Gobindgarh Public College, Alour, Khanna

 

 

ABSTRACT:

This paper analyses some of the social, economic and political aspects related to child labour. Firstly the importance of childhood has been analyzed .thereafter the issue of considering a person as child has been deliberated upon. Then the issue of child labour has been defined by examining various sources. Thereafter the magnitude of child labour in India has been analyzed. Then the various causes of child labour have been examined and the impact of child labour on childern has also been analyzed. In the last various measures to abolish the child labour has been mentioned .Thus this paper endeavors to analyse the issue of child labour in a comprehensive manner.

 

KEY WORDS: Child Labour, Childhood, Definition of childhood, Magnitude, Measures, Impact, Census

 

 

Generally, throughout the world it is considered that childhood is a period of life when full freedom is enjoyed in many respects. In fact children are considered to be the supreme assets of a nation. The future of every country depends upon its young generation and particularly upon its children. A child is a valuable asset of any society and has a definite role to play in the development of the nation. The future of a country depends on how its children are being nurtured to become the future citizens of the country. Some of the children, forced by their socio-economic conditions, take up work at a crucial formative age. A child whose legitimate place is at school is found to be working in various establishments and doing various sort of works to supplement the income of his family. This not only prevents these children from getting basic education but also is highly detrimental to their health and leads to the intellectual and physical stunting of their growth.

 

Moreover a child has to be prepared for responsible life in a free society in the spirit of understanding, peace and tolerance, use of corporal punishment is antithetic to these values and we cannot subject the child to torture and still expect him to act with understanding, peace and tolerance towards others and be a protagonist of peace and love.  It was probably for this reason

 

Mahatma Gandhi said that, “if we are to reach real peace in this world , and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children, and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle, we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering1” Thus a child should be provided all the amenities with which every child should be able to enjoy his childhood.

 

 


Defining Child Labour

Generally a child is defined using age criterion. Childhood has its relevance in terms of persons’ social acceptance as adults; generally by providing a space for participation in social affairs with an autonomous identity. Therefore, the widely accepted notion of defining children is age criterion. The different international institutions, national institutions and persons have  given different definitions of child labour which has been mentioned as under.

 

UNICEF defines child labour as work that exceeds a minimum number of hours, depending on the age of a child and on the type of work. Such work is considered harmful to the child and should therefore be eliminated. Ages 5-11

 

1. (Parents Forum for Meaningful Education V. Union of India, AIR 2001 Del 212 at P.218 (DB))

At least one hour of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work per week. Ages 12-14: At least 14 hours of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work per week. Ages 15-17: At least 43 hours of economic or domestic work per week2.

 

UNICEF characterizes child labour as follows;

1. Starting full- time Work at too Early an Age: This happened historically in the earlier stages of industrialization in Europe where children began work in factories from nine, eight or even five years. This is still the case today in many developed countries.

2. Working too Long: Within or outside of the family so that children are unable eto attend school, where it is available, or to make the most of school due to fatigue or lack of time. In some cases children still work 12-16 hours a day.

3. Work resulting in excessive physical, social and psychological strains upon the child as in the case of sexual exploitation in prostitution and pornography, work in sweatshops, as well as such dangerous work as military service and mining.

4. Work and life on the streets in unhealthy and dangerous conditions.

5. Inadequate remuneration for working outside of the family as in the case of child workers in carpet weaving who are paid US $ 3.00 for a 60-hour week.

6. Too much responsibility too early as in the domestic situation where children under 10 may have to look after young brothers and sisters for a whole day thereby preventing school attendance.

7. Work that does not facilitate the psychological and social development of the child as in dull and repetitive tasks associated with industries like handicrafts.

8. Work that inhibits the child’s self-esteem as in bonded labour and prostitution, and in a less extreme case the negative perception of ‘street children’3.

 

The World Bank, in a similar way, argues,’’ child work that does not involve an exploitative relationship should be distinguished from child labor.

 

2.  www.unicef.org

It further argues that in some instances, work done by children within the family may even contribute to the development of the child. ‘Not all child work is harmful. Many working children who are within a stable and nurturing environment with their parents or under protection of a guardian can benefit in terms of socialization and from informal education and training4.”

 

The Encyclopedia of Social Sciences explains child labor as, “When the business of wage earning or of participation in self or family supports conflicts directly or indirectly with the business of growth and education, the result is child labour. The function of work in childhood is primarily developmental and not economic5.”   

 

According to V.V. Giri, former President of India and a labor leader of repute, the term child labor has two basic elements, (1), employment of children in gainful occupations with a view to adding income to their families and (2) purposeful oppression and exploitation of working children leading to deprivation of their legitimate opportunities for growth6.

 

There are different concepts in the literature such as 'Child Work' and ’Child Labor' which are used synonymously and this creates confusion in the analysis of the problem of child labor. Still, all work is not bad for children; because some light work properly structured and phased is not child labor.

 

Thus child labor is the work which involves some degree of exploitation, i.e., physical, mental, economic and social, and therefore impairs the health and development of children. This concept refers to exploitation in terms of low wages and other facilities over and above economic exploitation7.

 

Thus all these definitions of child labour have different connotations and analyses this issue of child labour from different perspectives. But the issue of prevalence of child labour in India is really a big blot over our country. Not all work done by children should be classified as child labor that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling is generally regarded as being something positive.

 

3. World Bank Annual Report, 1998. p 1008.

4. Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, (1983), Vol.3. United by ORG, Baroda, pp 412-424.

5. Gurupadaswamy Committee Report, 1979, p 1

6. Janet Hilowitz, Joost Kooijmans, Peter Matz, Peter Dorman, Michaelle de Kock and Muriel Alectus.(2004) Child Labour: A textbook for university students, ILO, Geneva, p-16

 

This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life. The term “child labor” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

 

Magnitude of Child Labour in India

According to UNICEF, child labour in India is more than 90 million, out of 250 million in Worldwide, excluding child in domestic labour. India has the highest number of child labour of age group 6-14 years. 15 million children in India are in hazardous occupation. It is a big and bigger concern for India in its dream to become a developed country. 


 

Table 1.0 State-wise Distribution of Working Children according to 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 Census in the age group 5-14 years

S.No.

Name of the State/UT

1971

1981

1991

2001****

1

Andhra Pradesh

1627492

1951312

1661940

1363339

2

Assam *

 

**

327598

351416

3

Bihar

1059359

1101764

942245

1117500

4

Gujarat

518061

616913

523585

485530

5

Haryana

137826

194189

109691

253491

6

Himachal Pradesh

71384

99624

56438

107774

7

Jammu & Kashmir

70489

258437

**

175630

8

Karnataka

 

1131530

976247

822615

9

Kerala

111801

92854

34800

26156

10

Madhya Pradesh

1112319

1698597

1352563

1065259

11

Maharashtra

988357

1557756

1068427

764075

12

Chhattisgarh

 

 

 

364572

13

Manipur

16380

20217

16493

28836

14

Meghalaya

30440

44916

34633

53940

15

Jharkhand

 

 

 

407200

16

Uttaranchal

 

 

 

70183

17

Nagaland

13726

16235

16467

45874

18

Orissa

492477

702293

452394

377594

19

Punjab

232774

216939

142868

177268

20

Rajasthan

587389

819605

774199

1262570

21

Sikkim

15661

8561

5598

16457

22

Tamil Nadu

713305

975055

578889

418801

23

Tripura

17490

24204

16478

21756

24

Uttar Pradesh

1326726

1434675

1410086

1927997

25

West Bengal

511443

605263

711691

857087

26

Andaman & Nicobar Island

572

1309

1265

1960

27

Arunanchal Pradesh

17925

17950

12395

18482

28

Chandigarh

1086

1986

1870

3779

29

Dadra & Nagar Haveli

3102

3615

4416

4274

30

Delhi

17120

25717

27351

41899

31

Daman and Diu

7391

9378

941

729

32

Goa

 

 

4656

4138

33

Lakshadweep

97

56

34

27

34

Mizoram***

6314

16411

26265

35

Pondicherry

97

3606

2680

1904

 

Total

10753985

13640870

11285349

12666377

Source http://labour.nic.in 

Note: * 1971 Census figures of Assam includes figures of Mizoram.

** Census could not be conducted.

*** Census figures 1971 in respect of Mizoram included under Assam.

*** Includes marginal workers also.

 


The problem of child labour is one of the great magnitude in india as compared to the developed countries of the world not only it is eating in to the very vitals of the democracy but also effecting our efficiency and effectiveness as a child is forced to  work under inhuman conditions.

 

The following data shows the extent of child labor in India prevalent from the census of 1971 to 2001 census.

 

It is evidently clear from the above mentioned data that child labor has been prevailing in India from a long time back. According to the Census 2001, there were 12.7 million economically active children in the age-group of 5-14 years. The number was 11. 3 million during 1991 (Population Census) thus showing an increase in the number of child laborers.

 

The data from Census 1991 and 2001 illustrates that, there were 12.7 million economically active children in India in the age-group of 5-14 years. The number was 11. 3 million during 1991 (Population Census) thus showing an increase in the number of child laborers8.

 

Child Labour is recognized as a serious and enormously complex social problem in India. The Census found an increase in the number of child labourers from 11.28 million in 1991 to 12.66 million in 20019.

 

8. Bhakhry, Savita, (2006), Children in India and their Rights, NHRC, New Delhi, P-43.

 

9. Childern in India 2012- A Statistical Appraisal Social Statistics Division, Central Statistics Office, Ministry of statistics and Programme Implementation ,Government of India

 

In addition, nearly 85 per cent of child labourers in India are hard-to-reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the unorganized sector, both rural and urban, within the family or in household-based units. The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act 1986 aims to prohibit the entry of children into hazardous occupations and to regulate the services of children in non-hazardous occupations but still a significant portion of children in the country are engaged in such activities. The following are some of the situations in which children are engaged in work:

 

     Agriculture- Children working long hours and under severe hardships on the fields. They are also exposed to the hazards of working with modern machinery and chemicals.

     Hazardous Industries/ Occupations- Like glass making, mining, construction , carpet weaving, zari making, fireworks and others as listed under the Child Labour Act.

 

     Small industrial workshops and service establishments.

 

     On the streets- Rag pickers, porters, vendors etc.

 

     Domestic work- Largely invisible and silent and hence face higher degree of exploitation and abuse in the home of employees.

 

Thus one thing is clear that magnitude of child labour is very high in India and child labour hampers the growth of children who are engaged in it severly. Child labour is a serious threat to nation building because children are the future of a country and no country in the world can ignore its children.

 

Causes of Child Labour

The main causes of child labor include poverty, unemployment, and excess population. Among these, poverty is the primary cause of child labour.

 

You must have observed that poor families have more number of children, so it becomes very difficult for them to survive on the income of only one family member which is also quite less. So they make their small children their source of income. They make their children work in factories, shops, even selling items on streets. Some parents even carry infants on the streets to earn money from begging. Some percentage of child labour also comes from harassment by parents, step-parents or relatives.

 

There are many cases of child labor where a child has to work against the repayment of a loan which was taken by his father who was unable to pay it off. This is called as 'bonded child labour'. Bonded child labor normally happens in villages. Such children work like slaves in order to pay the loan taken. Not only poor families, but some well established business families also put their children into business at a quite young age instead of making them complete their education. Thus the following are the major causes for the prevalence of child labour.

1.      Poverty

2.      Parental illiteracy

3.      Tradition of making children learn the family skills

4.      Absence of universal compulsory Primary education

5.      Social apathy and tolerance of child labour

6.      Ignorance of the parents about the adverse  consequences of Child labour

7.      Ineffective enforcement of the legal provisions pertaining to child labour

8.      Non-availability of and non-accessibility to schools

9.      Irrelevant and non-attractive school curriculum

10.    Employers prefer children as they constitute cheap labour and they are not able to organize themselves against exploitation.

 

In this manner all these causes are responsible for the prevalence of child labour in the society.

 

Impact of Child Labour on Children

Child Labour is an act that endangers a child’s physical and emotional health and development without giving the child an opportunity for good education, food and shelter. Of the four major types of child abuses, physical, sexual, emotional and neglect, child labour falls under neglect exploitation and emotional abuse. Child labour is the exploitation of children for commercial reasons.

 

Measures to abolish child Labour

Child Labour cannot be abolished only through the efforts of government, in fact all the stakeholders should come together to mitigate this social evil. These stakeholders are as follows.

 

1.     Role of Government.

a)     National commission for Protection of Child Rights should play active role for the abolition of child labour.

b)    To employ child labourer should be made a non –bailable offence.

c)     If some employer is found who has employed child labour should be fined Rs 100000/-

d)    Economic sanctions to be enforced on countries that allow the employment of children for the manufacturer of export products

e)     Proper monitoring and implementing authorities to be set up to implement various acts passed by the Indian Government.

f)     National social welfare schemes to be introduced to supplement income for poor families whose children are removed from work sites

 

2.     Role of NGOs

a)     NGOs have a Key role in raising awareness and informing people about the misuse of children, denying them the fundamental rights of shelter, food and education. The NGOs should assist governmental agencies in implementing various  legislation

b)    Identification of areas where child labour prevails and bring to the notice of Government.

c)     Organise counselling sessions for children and parents

 

3.     Role of Civil Society

a)     Civil society can play an active role in identifying and alerting authorities to child labour sites

b)    Create awareness among parents and the public about the effect of child labour on children.

c)     Motivate parents to send their children to school

 

4.     Role of Corporate Houses

a)     Include banning of child labour in the mission statement of their company.

b)    The corporate entities should establish welfare funds as part of corporate social responsibility to help organizations working for the cause to ban child labour

 

5.     Role of Social Activists

a)     Every individual should resist to any form of child labour

b)    The individuals should not buy anything from shops or other establishments which employ child labour.

 

In this manner this paper endeavors to analyse the issue of child labour in a comprehensive way. Because the issue of child labour cannot be analyzed from single perspective it needs analysis of various factors because of which child labour prevails in the Indian society. Child labour is a serious threat to nation building in India. If India wants to become a developed nation it must stop child labour and should provide a zero percent tolerance for child labour. With the efforts of all the segments of society this social evil can be eradicated from Indian society and those childern of India who are doing child labour would be free to enjoy a child labour free childhood.

 

REFERENCE:

1.     Bhakhry, Savita, (2006), Children in India and their Rights, NHRC, New Delhi, .

2.       Childern in India 2012- A Statistical Appraisal Social Statistics Division, Central Statistics Office, Ministry of statistics and Programme Implementation ,Government of India

3.       Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, (1983), Vol.3. United by ORG, Baroda,.

4.       Gurupadaswamy Committee Report, 1979

5.       Janet Hilowitz, Joost Kooijmans, Peter Matz, Peter Dorman, Michaelle de Kock and Muriel Alectus.(2004) Child Labour: A textbook for university students,ILO,Geneva,

6.       World Bank Annual Report, 1998.

 

Web Links

1.       www.labour.nic.in 

2.       www.unicef.org

 

Received on 14.06.2013

Modified on 28.07.2013

Accepted on 15.12.2013

© A&V Publication all right reserved

Research J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 5(1): January-March, 2014, 37-41