Only sensitisation and crackdown can stop Child labour

First of all, here is news, which has been flashed across all newspapers that an airline Pilot couple in Delhi, who allegedly hired a 10-year-old girl as domestic help and tortured her, were arrested a few days back, and have been sent to jail. According to police, medical tests showed that the girl had sustained some injuries and had burn marks. A case has also been registered against the couple. While the Police are investigating the torture of the minor girl, data shows a substantial increase in child labour during the last year. The statistics show that 311 children were rescued in Delhi itself till June this year in contrast to 107 in the same period last year. It has also been reported that 22 people were arrested under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act this year, whereas only eight people were taken in by police in 2022.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986 to save ‘childhood’. As per law, nobody can employ children below the age of 16 years and employment in hazardous industries is prohibited for up to 18 years. Be that as it may, the law is observed more in breach than in its adherence. There are many forms of child labour, including rag-picking restaurants or dhabas, eateries, hotels, garment industries and manufacturing units in hazardous conditions. Once they are in employment, they lose childhood and have to face emotional stress, mental trauma and abuse from employers or other people. They remain deprived of parental care.

According to a survey after the children are rescued, they are often shifted to another place by the syndicate that offers them employment. The absence of an Aadhar card or bank account number makes it difficult for them to get compensation. Therefore, the need is to make extensive use of technology to rescue and rehabilitate the children. The Modus operandi of child traffickers has not changed much because they hardly come into the net of the law. They target vulnerable children from remote villages, brainwash them, assure them of good life and education etc.

There are a number of organisations that are engaged in protecting children from being given employment. ‘Bachpan bachao andolan’ is one of them for which it has been internationally recognised. In India Ministry of Women and Child Development works for the welfare of women and children but it beggars any logic as that why it is not technologically equipped to rescue and rehabilitate child labourers. A better governmental approach is needed to be adopted across the country to curb the bane of rampant child labour.

There is also the need to sensitise the general public about child labour.However, what was being done by the Pilot couple in Delhi to torture a ten-year domestic maid is a stigma for humanity. The law must be strictly implemented so that nobody could think of employing any boy or girl below the age of 14-16 years. There must be a crackdown on such factories, manufacturing units and persons. Resident Welfare Associations must also be roped in to prevent child labour. Their Aadhar cards and bank accounts must be kept in place so that they are not moved to other places and the compensation amount directly goes to their accounts.

It is in the interest of the country to stop child labour as when children are brought up in an environment that fosters intellectual, physical, and emotional development, they become responsible citizens and contribute to the development of the society and economy. Whereas children who are forced to work in hazardous conditions lacking self-development opportunities tend to be malnourished, suffer from poor cognitive and behavioural development, premature ageing, physical disabilities, drug dependency etc.

Moreover, child labourers come from impoverished conditions and are trafficked from their native places to those places where employment is offered to them. They have no protection, and their employers control them completely. Children are forced to work for long hours for meagre or no wages. Such children are often ill-treated by their employers. All these issues can affect a child’s mental and physical health severely.

Poverty is one of the root causes of child labour in India. Poor economic conditions force parents to depend on their children to help them inside and outside their homes. These children are forced to drop out of school and become a source of income for their parents and social security during old age. When children are not allowed to pursue learning and skill development opportunities that will enable them to get decent jobs in the future, they become trapped in the intergenerational cycles of poverty.

Another major cause of child labour in India is unemployment, especially due to natural calamities, pandemics, conflicts and war. Natural disasters or the loss of parent forces children to work and support the rest of the families. Therefore, the holistic approach must be adopted by the government and other sections of society.