CHILD LABOUR, a menace in India.
The phrase – 'Today's children are the citizens of tomorrow' – has fallen between the cracks, given the prevailing child labour across the country. Children are made to work as slaves in factories, fields, and are also self-employed as, milkman, rag-pickers, shoe-polisher and rickshaw pullers.
The Global Child Labor Index 2012, prepared by Maplecroft, ranks India 27th on the list of countries where children are at risk of being victim to child labour.
“I give all the money I earn to my mom. If I give the money to my dad, he will spend it on alcohol,” says Priya, who sells candies at Besant Nagar beach in Eastern Chennai. Priya, who goes to a government school in Adyar, works as a candy-seller after school because her family is facing acute financial crisis. “I want to be in the army when I grow up,” she adds in a cheerful tone. There are many other girls like Priya who fall prey to menial jobs and are deprived of a proper childhood.
Throughout the American history, forms of child labor have existed, like apprenticed servitude and child slavery. In the 19th century Britain faced the wrath of industrialization, the labourers were forced to work in factories, children were often preferred, as they were more cheaper, and manageable and less likely to strike. However, growing opposition to child labor in the North resulted in many factories to move to the South. By 1900, there were a few anti-child labour laws but the states varied considerably on their content and degree of enforcement. Many American children worked in, glass factories, mines, textiles, home industries, and as newsboys, messengers, bootblacks, peddlers etc. Child Labour then was unchecked and unbounded.
History of child labour is well versed in some of the poems scripted in the turbulent 19th century. "The Chimney Sweeper" by William Blake, is a poem published in Songs of Innocence in 1789, wherein the poet talks about the harsh nature of child labour, by depicting the poignant life of Tom Drake.
"When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep"
The poem is set against the gloomy background of child labor that was prominent in England in the late 18th and 19th century. At the premature age of five, boys were sold to clean chimneys, by their own families. These children were exploited and had a minuscule existence that was socially acknowledged at the time.
In India many constitutional and legal provisions have been formulated to deal with the problem of child labour. The Article 24 of the Indian Constitution states that "no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed in work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment". The child labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986, is the first comprehensive legislation which prohibits employment of children below 14 years in industries and hazardous occupations.
Recently, in 2009, by making elementary education the right of every child, India has nevertheless made a tangible effort to address this issue, thereby establishing the framework for providing free and compulsory quality primary education for all children. Sadly, statistics reveal every one of two children in India; nearly 18 million children, live on the streets. According to figures from the National Sample Survey 2009-2010, around five million children (age 5-14 years) are labourers.
Another major concern is that most of the child labourers go undetected. Laws formulated to protect children from hazardous labour are not enforced. The Labor Ministry is examining a proposal to amend the Child Labor (Prohibition) Act to extend the age bar on child labour from 14 years to 18 years and a fine of Rs 20,000 will be imposed on the employer of such children. After Delhi, Rajasthan is the second state which has put the age limit at...
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