The term ‘child labour‘ means the system of engaging children in professional manual labour in lieu of a little remuneration. It is a shame and at the same time a social malady that child labour is still prevalent in our country even after the successful completion of Golden Jubilee of Independence.
Undoubtedly it is a global problem. According to a recent survey, around 250 million children under 14 have to work hard for earning their bread. But in India, it has assumed an alarming dimension. In our Constitution, there is provision for free, compulsory and universal primary education for the children in the age group from 6 to 11 and now it has been extended to 14. But such Constitutional measures have become a sheer mockery to poor people in the villages and in the slums of the cities and towns, Most of the children in these areas are compelled to earn their livelihood on account of poverty and lack of sufficient manpower. In many families, the children are the sole bread earners. If the children do not work to provide the income, the families will have to starve. As a result, there are many dropouts in schools every year. In tea-stalls, domestic homes, cottage and small-scale industries and in mines and fields of agriculture they are employed as unrecognised labourers and get utter negligence and exploitation.
The types of work they have to do are many and various. They shine shoes, make sports goods, weave carpets, make paper bags and ‘Biri’, assemble fireworks and do any such odd job. In tea-stalls and hotels, they clean the utensils, sweep the floors and serve at the table. In garages, they wash cars, buses and lorries. The female children serve as maid-servants in various families. They have to work like slaves round the clock. There are few households that allow their child-servants adequate food and clothing. They do not get any free time. They are deprived of education and their wages are paid to their parents and the money is rarely spent on them. Thus having the menial works done by the poor children is a cruel practice. It kills their human qualities and in many cases turns them into anti-socials in their future life.
No doubt, it is the extreme poverty of parents that leads the children to adopt such a menial profession at a minor age. For the solution of this problem, we need not only appropriate laws but also a thorough economic reform to reduce the poverty line. At the same time, the spread of literacy is essential to wipe out this shameful custom. The Sartu Siksha Abhiyan is a bold step taken by the government in recent years. Social awareness is also essential to control the birthrate irrespective of caste and religion. Otherwise pious resolutions by leaders on the Children’s Day will remain empty words.
Child labour is not just forcing children to work. The side effects are quite large and severe. It leaves a mark on the child’s mind. It interferes with their mental and mental health and hinders their proper growth and development. It is a fault of humanity’s face that should be removed as soon as possible.