Child Labour- The Way Ahead

G.S. Vijay Kumar By G.S. Vijay Kumar, 24th Jun 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Kids

No child wants to be deprived of his childhood by working as child labourer. Many of them blame their alcoholic and illiterate parents for their predicament. Child labour is a complex problem with far- reaching ramifications

Education - The greatest gift

According to a Government notification, children below the age of 14 cannot be employed in hotels, roadside eateries as well as domestic help from October 10, 2006. The offenders will be penalized under the Child Labour Protection Act, 1986, and sentenced to jail or a fine of up to Rs. 20000 or both. There are approximately 12 million child workers in India. They are spread all over the country and are engaged in various occupations ranging from rag – picking to working in eateries, to stone- breaking, to working in zari factories, to working as domestic help and so on. In spite of constitutional provisions and an updated Child Labour Protection Act, it is unfortunate that India is home to nearly 30 % of the world’s child workforce.

Children are one of the most valuable assets of a country. Only those individuals who are physically fit, intellectually competent and mentally strong can become useful citizens of any society. Forcing a child to work limits the child’s development and is severely reprehensible. And the blame for such a situation lies with the parents who ought to look after their children in their formative years, the society that encourages the employment of child labour and the businessman for exploiting the child for the sake of minimizing his expenses. No child should be deprived of his childhood by being forced to work against his will. Many of them blame their alcoholic parents for their predicament. Child labour is a very complex problem with far-reaching ramifications and therefore cannot have a simple and straight solution. It calls for multi-pronged tackling.

The government, as usual, is woefully short of manpower and rehabilitation centers / rescue homes and do not have the faintest idea as to how to proceed in this matter. The routine raids and inspections where labour officers swoop down on factories, shops and restaurants have done very little to prevent the use of child labour On the contrary, it has very often been used as one more opportunity for the inspectors to make some quick money.

WHY IS CHILD LABOUR PREVALENT?

The primary reason is economic. In a country with stark poverty where people struggle for daily food and survival, many poor parents are forced to send their children for work to bring in supplementary income. Denying impoverished families whatever little money a child may bring in can make the child more vulnerable to abuse. Given a choice, all parents would like to send their children to schools so that they inherit a better future than theirs. Child labour is intricately linked with poverty and unless conditions improve at the domestic front, child labour will not completely vanish .The ban on child labour should therefore be interwoven with poverty alleviation programmes.

The problem is also closely connected to the problems of school dropouts, family welfare, unequal distribution of wealth particularly in rural areas; low wage levels in agriculture and allied
activities, inflation, etc. Creation of round the year job opportunities, secure employment and comfortable earning for the parents may motivate them to send their children to schools in order to provide a better quality of life to them.








According to government records, there are roughly 12 million child workers in India. Assuming the distribution of child workers is equal all over the country, it would roughly translate to anywhere between four lakh and eight lakh child workers per state .The bigger states may have around eight lakh child workers and the smaller states around four lakh. Further assuming an average cost of educating a child is Rs. 500 per month (which includes board and lodging where necessary, and tuition fee), the total cost of education per month would be in the region of Rs. 20 crore for a smaller state and Rs. 40 crore for a bigger state In other words, the annual cost for the states would be of the order of Rs 240 crore to Rs 480 crore. Additionally, an equal amount of this size may have to be given to the parents so that they willingly send their children to school to make good their loss of income. This is important because the parents are currently sending their children to work to get supplementary incomes for their families. Therefore, the total burden per state would be to the tune of Rs. 480 crore to Rs. 960 crore per year. On a national scale, this amounts to Rs. 15000 crore approximately.

We need to build in some safeguards to prevent abuse. This benefit may be extended only to the first generation children of a family to begin with and for the future this benefit may be limited to two children per family. While on the one hand a strong incentive has to be provided to the economically weaker parents, there should be a similar disincentive program for the irresponsible and alcoholic parents so that such welfare schemes are not manipulated and taken undue advantage of.

If we are serious about tackling this issue, these figures, per se, are not worrisome. If there is a political will, this can be managed. Our political leaders are doling out many freebies to lure the voters. The chief ministers of various states distribute free colour television sets, sarees for women, cash incentives to people before the elections to win their votes. This roughly translates to Rs 10000 crores. Instead of spending on such freebies to play to the galleries, it will be a better idea to spend on educating the poor children who are going to be the citizens of tomorrow.

Azim Premji , Chairman of Wipro , who while delivering the convocation address at the Indian Institute of Technology , Chennai some years ago said:“ The greatest gift one can give to others is the gift of education .We who have been so fortunate to receive this gift know how valuable it is.” Education alone will make a person stand on his own legs. Gifting anything material surely makes people happy but this does not solve their problems for long whereas by providing education their whole life as well as the generation to follow is taken care of.

Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri once said: “ Let us build a strong foundation stone on which a prosperous and united India can stand. Even if the structure falls, the foundation will remain.” These children may become the foundation stone tomorrow. But in order for this programme to be effective, the government should seriously get down to business.


G.S. Vijay Kumar, Mumbai, India

Tags

Child Abuse, Child Labour, Child Labour Protection, Child Protection, Child Rehabilitation, Child Rights, Children, Domestic Help, Domestic Violence, G S Vijay Kumar, Gs Vijay Kumar, Gsvijay Kumar, India, India Child, Indian Child, Labour, Vijay Kumar

Meet the author

author avatar G.S. Vijay Kumar
I am a management graduate and have worked as a senior executive for 25 years in the corporate sector.I am a columnist and write on management, Economics and socio-economic topics.

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Comments

author avatar Steve Kinsman
24th Jun 2011 (#)

Excellent article, G. S. Vijay Kumar. Child labor is the tragic result of a capitalist system that exploits labor wherever it is cheapest.

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author avatar G.S. Vijay Kumar
25th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, sir, for your kind message which encourages us to write. Kind regards.

G.S.vijay Kumar

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author avatar vpaulose
25th Jun 2011 (#)

Interesting info about child labor. Thank you Vijay.

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author avatar G.S. Vijay Kumar
25th Jun 2011 (#)

Thank you, sir, for your kind message which encourages us to write. Kind regards.

G.S.Vijay Kumar

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