Child Labour in India- Causes, Concerns & How to Stop

Every year, June 12 is observed by countries across the globe as ‘World Day Against Child Labour.’ India has the highest number of child labourers in the world.

Concerted effort by Indian government and judiciary to stem child labour has met limited success. As Indian economy booms, dependence upon child labour in India has also grown exponentially.

Burning shame for India:

Global Slavery Index (GSI) estimates, a shameful 18.36 million people in India live in slave-like conditions. Most modern-day slaves are underage children, research by various global organizations, say.

The Indian government’s 2011 census records about 4.3 million children between age of five and 14 years are working in hazardous and non-hazardous jobs. A damning report by International Labour Organization is claiming a much higher number.

ILO claims India has 10.3 million child labourers. Of these, whopping 70 percent are girls. Over 150 million children worldwide qualify in this definition as child labourers, says UNICEF.

child labour

Defining child labour in India:

ILO’s definition of child labour is: “Work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by- depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.”

Generally, working children in the five to 14 years age group are classified as child labourers. Underage children are employed in hazardous and non-hazardous industries.

In May 2015, the Indian government passed a controversial bill regarding child labour. The Amended ‘Child Labour Act’ permits children to work in family owned non-hazardous enterprises.

In July 2016, India again amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, paving way for juveniles aged below 14 years to work in specific jobs only.

Prevalence of child labour in India:

Child labour exists in India for several reasons. The biggest cause of child labour has been identified as poverty. Families with scant resources force underage children to work.

In fact, birth control remains taboo among many Indian cultures. Sadly, some families believe, more children means higher income. A Human Rights Watch report claims, children work to pay family debts.

Ironically, these communities consider it normal for teenagers to marry and procreate at puberty. Lack of education is yet another cause of child labour. Parents cannot afford to educate children and force them to work.

Child labour in India is rising, a recent Reuters report says. Sectors where child labour is prevalent in India are identified by ILO, WSI and UNICEF.

Five Indian states are the biggest employers of child labour. These are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. These states account for some 20 percent of India’s child labourers.

Bonded labour: Inherited curse

Sadly, bonded labour is greatest contributor to child labour in India. Though bonded labour is outlawed in India since 1976, the system however continues. Parents send their children to work with landlords and moneylenders, in lieu of unpaid debts.

These children are seldom paid. They are prone to rampant exploitation.This includes working long hours in sun, deprivation of water and food or lifting heavy loads. The system continues for generations.

Creditors enforcing bonded labour can be prosecuted under Indian laws. They face very stiff cash fines and long jail terms. Yet, there are few complainants.

Domestic help: Turning a blind eye

Very often, underage children are sent to work as live-in or visiting domestic helpers. This horrific system prevails in modern Indian cities too.

Educated families welcome such child workers, turning a blind eye to existing laws. Such families falsely believe they are protecting a child against anti-social elements and vices.

Often, these children are sent as domestic workers by parents hoping to fork in extra cash for the family. Child domestic workers are sent to cities from villages under the false pretext of ‘better prospects.’

Child sex workers: Lust for virgins

Thousands of young girls who attain puberty are pushed into India’s flesh trade every year. Indian laws define carnal relations with any girl below 18 years age as ‘Statutory Rape’.

It is a criminal offense and attracts extremely harsh punishment.Despite, there is no dearth of criminals who lure village families into sending their young girls to cities.

They are promised Bollywood and other glamorous jobs. Instead, they are pushed into prostitution.The demand for underage, post-puberty girls is very high in flesh trade due to myths surrounding virginity.

Forced begging: Getting maimed

Families unable to sustain themselves force their underage kids to beg. Law enforcement authorities in India continue to uncover large begging rackets. Criminals tempt urchins to join these begging chains.

They are housed in sub-human conditions and fed poorly.Often, their eyes are gouged and limbs maimed to attract sympathy from people. Underage girls are raped, impregnated and forced to beg.

These child labourers are condemned to a life of penury and servitude unless rescued by some charity organization.

Child marriage: Banned tradition

Indian laws explicitly ban child marriage. Yet, this system flourishes among various uneducated communities on sly. Young girls married off into impoverished families end up as slave, child labour.

They are forced to work in kitchen. Such girls are chided into performing physically taxing household and domestic chores.Peer and family pressures prevent them from seeking recourse to law.

These girls bear children despite their poor physical condition. Most of them are unaware about travails of being a mother at tender age.

Child delinquency: Bane of poor and rich

Kids committing crimes is fairly common in India. The infamous ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case on December 16, 2012 aptly highlights this. One of the alleged rapists was juvenile and escaped harsh punishment meted to adults convicted of similar crime.

Children become delinquent for many reasons. Main among them is flight from poverty. They want to escape dithering poverty of their households. Among the rich, children flee home to escape restrictions enforced by parents.

Such kids end up as child labourers. Fearing reprisals, they are scared to return home. Often they get trapped by criminals who lure them into drug peddling, pick pocketing and other illegal activities.

Steps to Stop child labour:

The Indian government, in recent years, is winning kudos worldwide for its efforts to eradicate child labour. Amendments made to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act prescribes severe punishment for people found guilty of retaining bonded labour.

The amendment stipulates rigorous imprisonment for those who force children to beg, handle or carry human waste and animal carcasses.

The draft National Policy for Domestic Workers, when goes into force, will ensure minimum Rs.9,000 salary for household helpers.

Military and police join the war:

Ministry of Home Affairs ensures that every police station in the country has a separate cell for juvenile, women and child protection. Extremely severe punishment awaits those found guilty of trafficking in minors.

Ministry of Social Welfare and Justice, Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched ‘Khoya-Paya’ a dedicated portal to track missing children.

Ministry of Defence is taking appropriate measures to ensure children are not recruited by terror outfits and indigenous armed movements such as Naxals.

India’s unique situation:

India continues to suffer economically due to its inability to eradicate child labour. Goods including hand-woven carpets and ready made garments from India are banned for imports by several countries.

Foreign governments suspect child labour was involved in their manufacture. The Indian government is also unable to fully abolish child labour for other reasons.

Often, children are the only bread winners of a family that consists of sick parents. Banning child labour completely is tantamount to death sentence for such families.

Newer rules for employers:

The Indian government now implements new rules for employers of child labourers. These employers can deploy children only in non-hazardous work. They have to ensure all underage workers are sent to night schools.

Workplaces where child labour is allowed are regularly inspected by officials of various ministries for safety compliance. Violators face jail terms and closure of business.

On the anvil:

The archaic Bombay Anti-Beggary Law 1958 and its variants are being abrogated. Instead, the Indian government will introduce a new modern law.

The draft law stipulates all beggars to be rounded up by cops. They will be fed, clothed and sheltered at state expense.These beggars will be taught vocational skills.

Resources to earn respectably will be provided by the government. However, those found begging again will face fines and jail. Parents who allow kids to beg will face harsher punishments.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda reaffirms the goal of ending child labour. Acting together, it is within our means to make the future of work a future without child labour.” – Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General.

59 Comments

  1. krishna rao on August 6, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    All over the world the Child labor and other forms of human trafficking are happening in the United States right now. This form of “modern day slavery” ensnares the most vulnerable people in our society, and traps them in world of violence, crime, forced servitude, and other horrendous outcomes. Here at the BCF, we want to help spread awareness for these vicious crimes so that victims can be rescued, and their traffickers brought to justice.
    To have or increase the income of a poor family
    To reduce the labor cost in a production organization
    Misc. reasons for engaging as domestic aid as the children are less doubtful about dishonesty or less liable to misbehave or be violent.
    The Child labor laws need to be strictly enforced by the Government.
    The general public need to be made aware of the severe consequences of Child labor.
    An increase in employment opportunity for adults would help in overcoming the problem of poverty and child labor.
    Government should ensure that every child gets the opportunity to go to school.
    The owners of factories and mines should take the pledge of not engaging child in their place of business.

  2. viji on July 26, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    you are posting a good information for people and keep maintain and give more updates too.

  3. abinayamaadhu on July 4, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    haii sir,
    our country is one the most developed country but we saw the childlabour in every indian has shamed i agree sir and i will defenetly help for future. because its our childrens. education is the future of our life

  4. Pooja chaudhary on June 16, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    It is really very shameful for our country that after so many years of independence we are unable to end such crimes. And the reason behind these crimes is illiteracy and corruption. I think whole system is responsible for such conditions .So it is the need of time that there should be a great change in law and order . To end the crimes like child labour unemployment should be end or reduced and literary level should be increased by the government. It is possible only if our government works properly and we perform our duties honestly.

  5. atish deepankar on June 14, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    i think the one of the root cause of this child labour is poverty.there must be the steps to eradicate poverty.this may be done in many way loike by the help of govt. as well as by the private or individual schemes.
    example-if i am an enterprenuer i must apply my some certain income on providing oppurtunities to the unemployed adult so that they may send there children or sibblings to do work.if i have an industry then there is a chance for an enterprenuer to provide oppurtunities to the unemployed people .if you are in a city and providing 20 people employement every year then you will be able to finish off atleast 50% of the unemployement from your nearby regoin. that is what an individual can put his effort to eradicate unemployement.

  6. Kannikaramesh on June 14, 2017 at 11:03 am

    1. The child labour can be avoided in certain ways.

    Bridge school can help them to educate and show a choose the right path.

    The govt can laid rules grama vidhya programme that all the illetrate should become literate.

    For that youngsters who are educated can comeforward to help this programme with free of cost. Making awareness in the childrens future like pointing the girl child security and childs labour in all the way.

    The respective state or village can provide a free vocational training to the 18 years aged gilrs, widows and helpless women to set up a small scale business for their future progress.
    Illiteracy is the main reason for the poverty. Each leader of the state should move with humanity. Each individual are responsible for this state.

  7. Shiela Nhire on June 14, 2017 at 2:11 am

    I think the jail terms are too lenient for the child abusers. Apart from national measures in place to deal with child labour, I also think that there is need for international monitors on that issue, who will not take sides with the abusers. These will also be responsible for conscientising communities in India about the consequences of child labour.

  8. Zinhle on June 14, 2017 at 12:01 am

    I believe that a child should be free and be able to do what ever they want when ever they want, let them be as long as the parents are there to supervise them make sure they grow up well, with respect of others . They were not born to work and be slaves but they were born to bring joy and happiness in our life’s as parents. Let enjoy our kids and treat them with lot of love and respect. Child labour is a no no we need to act together as parents and say no to child labour let not kill our children’s future or let some one else kill a child’s future.

  9. Memoona sagheer on June 13, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    Reduce this labour for the batterment of children because children are the future makers for a country….

  10. suchi on June 13, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    child Labour is a crime. many more childrens wrking to hotel, coolbars and more place but their can’t see me every time was wrking to kitchen and washing waste plates.But u know socity…this is thire gud time..every time happy and study , make a gud health and welth time .so Don’t encourge and suplorring child labour pls….

  11. Y.manasa on June 13, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Respected sir ,
    I am manasa ,sir I am happy to hear this act. I accept that in India the count of the child labor is more this should be reduced. I will support this act .I will feel happy if i am a part of this act to help . Sir if we form a comity of this who are willing I think we can do our best to reduce the count of child labor.
    Thanking you sir ,
    Yours faithfully,
    Y. manasa

    • Pooja chaudhary on June 16, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Hey Manasa you are right to end this problem we should do something. We should definitely make a committee.

  12. Stefi N on June 13, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    I have been to Kerala, and I hardly finds children begging for their survival there.It is just because of the fact that keralites strive hard to educate their children well.

    Once I went to Gujarat There I saw a group of children running behind me and my mother to get money At first my mom gave them a 5 rupee note and they ran with it to the nearby shop and brought something.Within no time they were back to us again begging. this time I compelled my mother not to give them money but give them the food .This time my mother bought and gave them the food.I could see their eyes glittering with a great smile on their face.And they never came back .

    I want to convey to my friends that dont give them the money because you never know to whom it shall go(it can even serve as a nutrition to the child mafias behind the scenes).In my case they just went with that money to buy something for THEM,and this will not/CANNOT be the case with all.So kindly buy them the food if you think is needed for them.
    IF YOU CAN VANISH SOMETHING FROM THIS WORLD LET IT BE THE HUNGER
    OF A CHILD
    #stay +ve

  13. siddhant singh on June 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    it should not be there in India, child labor is not a good thing

  14. Volodymyr on June 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Good day!
    Children are the flowers of our lives. The mistreatment of the underage is one of the most serious crimes in Ukraine. The authorities are struggling with these manifestations of aggression but still very insufficient. Because Ukraine has an economic crisis that is tied to the policy of government-businessmen and with the war in the east of Russia, so abusing teenage children is also found in Ukraine. Combating anti-abuse is one of the most important methods of combating business that proves Kids’ Classification (castes) or the elimination of discrimination between people is another important step in the struggle for the fate of pestilent human beings. Life is given once and it must be lived in such a way as to show all its abilities and achieve the desired result.

    Sincerely, Volodimir

  15. Edgar Cardoza on June 13, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Child labour is a curse to the gen-next future of India. The saying “Today’s children are the tomorrow’s citizen” surely doesn’t match the current scenario. When we pull away their rights of education and freedom we are endangering our country’s resourcefulness to the worst nightmares of any country i.e, poverty and anti social themed activities. With equal education and equal opportunities, we can once again flourish our country known for its Knowledge and education just as its ancient days.

    Let us all fight back against the child/bonded labour, trafficking and anti social taboos

  16. Ash on June 13, 2017 at 10:24 am

    In India major problem is population. It could have been Good if all the families have adopted 1or 2 children per family Concept. Unluckily, India has the highest population of a religion which considers getting the family planning done as an offence as per their religious beliefs. Obviouly number of child labour will increase, as the patents of such children, send their kids to work to fulfill their needs. First of all people should come out of such blind beliefs, get educated and make India poverty free.

  17. Maylin Flores on June 13, 2017 at 7:07 am

    We have to encourage those children to take up education instead of work at their young age.. Because education is the only thing that can gives knowledge and and can give them a better future…

  18. Shwe Toe on June 12, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    From the concerning basic department of the authorised from the quaters have to always take the child labour survey and have to submit to the non Government or Government sector . Should also take action against parents, Why they send child to job and find out what is the cause? And pull out the root of child labour.

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