Eradication of Child Labour

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Compulsory primary education for tackling the problem of child labour

This reader maintains, and has written to this effect in the Bulletin and elsewhere, on a number of occasions, that non-implementation of the programme of universal primary education and not putting this social welfare programme first on the list of priorities has rendered India vulnerable in all fields; and child labour can not be eliminated unless the child in sent to his/her rightful place - the school. Today, except Kerala, the picture is grim all over. In UP, for example, one third of the male children and more than three-fifths of female children are illiterate. It is the same in respect of school attendance for India. India is not only behind China, Sri Lanka and South Korea, but also behind 'low-income countries' (as defined by the World Bank) including sub-Saharan Africa. It is against this background that one has to view the perpetual abuse of children, mostly from the deprived section of our population. Government planners, almost the entire middle class, and regrettably even some highly prestigious human rights and civil liberties organisations maintain that child labour will be abolished only when poverty is eliminated. Which means that this evil will never be eradicated. Some activists depend solely on the good sense and kindness of importers of goods (specially carpets) manufactured by child labour - - they hope to put an end to this menace by asking foreign importers not to buy carpets which involve labour of children. Yet, there are others who maintain that once the provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 have been rigorously implemented, we'll have done our job. We refuse to recognize the fact that countries like Japan and Great Britain approached their developmental and social welfare programmes in the nineteenth century by first introducing and successfully implementing only one social welfare programme - compulsory primary education. We have...
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