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. Neeta Ingle on June 12, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Its not only responsibility of Indian govt, police, or any particular organisation … Its our responsibility too, if we see something wrong around us we should rise our voice & immediately should inform police, concerned citizen can only change the worst situation… Lets get all together to stop child labour & child abuse…

  2. Pristine Woods on June 12, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Child labour is really a disgrace but we can help it out by enforcing laws
    1. No child under the age of 18 should work in hardous places cos due to what I read some are the bread winners for sick parents and they need to be sent to evening classes to learn

    2. Young girls forced into marriage and prostitution’s must be stopped it is a big sin a girl under the age of 18 in most countries is a minor and it is still a ward of the state.
    What those a little girl know about marriage in the 1st place marriage is for matured people not for boys and girls,this act of early marriage and prostitution must be stopped

    3. There should be a strong law and punishment for law breakers and it should help get rid of bad people
    Reading this article makes me sad how can one of the greatest country in the world allow this should happening for so many years
    India&other countries let us all raise against CHILD LABOUR now!
    UNICEF and other organizations let us raise to our feet and help stop child labour once and for all cause children are gifts from God and we must appreciate this gifts whole heartily​
    Thanks.

  3. niharika mishra on June 12, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    we should take strict action against those groups who are involve In these type of crime.

  4. Gopalakriahnan on June 12, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    First our punishment system is very week.
    In view of stop /eradicate the child labor regulation is not the way in my view. The punishment made for the child labor and forcing for child labor is is very nominal in India.The system should change and very severe punishment should be given to those directing the child labors and the group who undertake the child labor. Those who force girl child for the immoral activities shall be brought to public and give severe punishment.Unless the punishment is enforced the celebration of child lobar will continue every year.

  5. jahangir alam on June 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    1st of all we have to ask ourselves that why Childs are doing labor, because of their parents allow them to do so…
    And why they are allowing them???
    Because the are not able to fulfill their necessary requirement with their pay.
    So government should fix a minimum rate (For Companies) of pay (with that they can achieve their daily requirements at least)

  6. [email protected] on June 12, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Child labour is a like a poison to child’s overall development.It not only prevent child from studying but also enjoying their childhood which is the best part of humans life cycle. Steps should be made and implemented to stop it’s practice.

  7. Padma Sharma on June 12, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    i need to protest them plz help how to raise my voice agaist this crime .

  8. Gurpreet Singh Brar on June 12, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    It’s a matter of great sorrow that in India children have to labour for their daily bread.
    Parents are not guilty for child labour.Governments are responsible for it because governments’ policies are not in poor people’s favour.
    In India most of poor people have not their own homes they live/sleep rough then their children would labour not get education so governments should authorise to poors to get education,emloyment for their existing so that their children could get education then we can eradicate this stigma.

  9. Purnima Lama on June 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    We should save the child’s n we should help them for their brighter future. But as a middle class family holder I know the pain of their parents as well. Lots of poor peopls r not able to give good life to their kids because of their bad financial condition. N its a big issue in India. If they dont have own house n they don’t have good income source then they will be option less. So first of all we should focus on there financial conditions should be efortable to guide there kids on proper way. N obviously India gvt should take a strong action in dis.

  10. DEBASHIS MUKHERJEE on June 12, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Very saddest facts in our country——Child labor. To day prohibited in law about child labor but the reality world in India says other word. Most important question here is haves and have not! Any civilized country can not any step with out capitalism. Child labor is standing here until capitalism standing. Socialism can do solve the problem but that is impossible in our country. Only one way have to do solve to that ——HUMANITY or filter dawn. But social character or the man is not so good in humanity in his social. He does avoid is social duty. And my personal opinion that bad politics is a cancer in our social and country also. Now a day mead-day meal is nothing to that. Need making humanity men to men and in social and country must.
    Humanity and financial support can do progress the child’s from this problem.

  11. M.Prabhakar on June 12, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you for giving opportunity to share my views against “Child Labour”.
    I don’t have that much of capability to tell about “Child Labour,” but as a human being I would like to share my opinion on this i.e., We should discourage child labour system not only in India but also in the world because every child should be gone to school first to gain minimum education knowledge. For this I am going to give some points as my opinions:

    1. We should implement compulsory education to the children.
    2. If possible financial support to be enhanced for families particularly poor people.
    3. We should restrict and demolish subsidies to Employers or Industrialists who are employed the child labour and they should be discouraged in all angles like financially, socially etc.,

    Thanking you sir,

    Yours faithfully,

    M.Prabhakar,
    Ongole,
    A.P.,
    India.

  12. Pammu_z on June 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    As an Indian citizen,all should be bold enough to rase the voice against child labour.The children are like us only.they need to study.They also having wish to study ,to get a good job and all.so in this world’s against child labour day we should be one and protest against this child force to work .we should be brave enough to stand up and say to the world no child labour and help each and every children .

  13. imran on June 12, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    its reality of the world

  14. VIVEK KUMAR SINGH on June 12, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Besides the laws, people have to aware about these things. One should not keep quiet if he sees these things. If every people, who is not indulged in these activities, starts raising voice instead of just criticizing government, police and those people who force children in these activities. Then, these activities are not going to survive in our colony, city, state, country and the world. So, please, don’t just read it but do it. If you find any of these activities nearby yourself then just speak up, get united and rehabilitate those children. So that you can find peace in your life and you can also say that you are human and believe me that this is the only way which will make you proud of youself.

  15. Shilpa on June 12, 2017 at 11:51 am

    I agree 100% with this article on Child Labour. It’s a sad reality which should be completely abolished soon. More and more efforts need to be taken not just by the government and activists but also common people in making oneself as well as the people around aware of this harsh reality. It’s time to step up and save the little children around us. They are so young have a bright future ahead of them. Let’s help save these children and give them a future the way we are blessed to have.

  16. Sowmya on June 12, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Government shiuld take up serious action on child labour…

  17. Gayathri on June 12, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Usually certain high level actions will be taken by the Govt. But only few will be carried out successfully. Hope atleast this scheme of the Indian Govt will create the world a better place for the children.

  18. DAVID ROUT on June 12, 2017 at 11:46 am

    This article is very much enlightening and helpful. I appreciate the details. Can you add a little more statistics as to the number approximately according to the States highlated.

  19. Prabhakar Mitra on June 12, 2017 at 11:45 am

    The facts are really terrible.Child labour is always a big problem in India from long time.
    Cause:
    The mentality of people in rural area and those parents who forced their children for works is ” PADHAI SE PET NHI BHARTA HAI SAAB”.Government always passes the rules and give FACTS not takes the actions.The parent of ‘CHOTU’ or ‘CHUTAKI’ wouldn’t be change.They always gives the same arguments like-we are poor people,we can’t afford the education fees,tution fees,we are 4/5/6 members in our family.
    Does education really become expensive in 21st century.

    How to stop:
    We can’t stop it properly but we can reduce the numbers of child labour gradually.we can’t depend on government .we have to take helps from some good NGO’s and the owner of Super 30 Mr. Anand Kumar . The method used in Chennai long time ago is ‘One Learn One Teach’.
    People have to make small groups and gives the education at door to door or with some educational camp.
    Thank you

  20. Kiran okha on June 12, 2017 at 11:44 am

    We can stop child labour by counseling children and parent as well,so that they should differentiate between the short term benefit and the long term banefit.Off course it is possible only by education an proper guidance.we have to make people also aware about labour laws and ensure the strict application in case of any deviation in the rule.

  21. Divya on June 12, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Most of the children are forced to indulge in child labour and human trafficking. We should take stern steps to come out those children.

  22. Divya on June 12, 2017 at 11:34 am

    It’s very shameful that most of the children are forced in child labour, human trafficking and so on.we should help those children to come out this problem.

  23. nandini lanka on June 12, 2017 at 11:23 am

    yes,for sure child labour should be eradicated,govt should stop providing facilities for the rich n they should build orphanges n provide free education so that the poor ones can get educated n give us bright futre n this is importnt even for india for developing more. n let it start with us!

  24. Joseph on June 12, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Child labour should be stopped because,it expose them to various danger,by that it destroys all their future dreams.#SAY NO TO CHILD LABOUR #

  25. KNath on June 12, 2017 at 11:21 am

    It’s a born right that every child should get all the basic necessities of the life, but still we people threw them into the pit hole of slavery. Let each and evey person of Earth , take a pledge that he /she contribute some effort​ to stop child slavery afterall children are infact the future of the earth.

  26. Emmanuel otieno on June 12, 2017 at 11:19 am

    It’s good that tho Indian government is doing something to stop child labour in India but still they are left with a few percentage of kids are still forces onto that. As long as poverty lane does not decrease in India, the child labour will be a bit challenging to stop completely.

  27. Jaydeep Baldaniya on June 12, 2017 at 11:17 am

    if we want that child labor ratio get down and decrease to India.we have to do work for backwards and slums areas of India.

  28. Akash on June 12, 2017 at 11:13 am

    More work for this sector becoz every second one new child is adding on child labour.
    Many celebrities come on this matter and save this children’s smile & life.

  29. Akash on June 12, 2017 at 11:11 am

    More work for this sector becoz every second one new child is adding on child labour.

  30. Krishna on June 12, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Yes it is a shameful moment for economically growing nation like India, I think it voting power starts from 5 yrs na then definitely care for these children improves.
    Anyhow for child welfare anytime I will be available 24/7

  31. Rohit Malav on June 12, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Govt. Must made a team on dist. & short level of educate officer &give them order for checking in every area mostly in village ,industry& short city.
    We have make park for children & give them physical training& have to remain contact with them humanly. Phisicaly alerts chills can do their work them self also.thank you …
    Again best wishes for a better & Eco friendly world.

  32. Reality White on June 12, 2017 at 8:01 am

    It is clear that children under the age of 14 and young adolescents are the bread-winners of their household. The government is not doing everything that they can, but rather act as if they are doing something by implementing/ re-enforcing a law or two that does nothing to really make the situation better or even give the children in child labour any hope. In fact, all it does, is make the situation worst. Such examples are: how giving higher salary to are children who are child labourer making the different / or eradicating child labour? ,how allow children underage to work in non-hazardous work conditions making the situation better / eradicating child labour? . In fact, all that am seeing, is a government that clearly don’t have any intention of stopping this horrible, unthinkable act of child labour, but they just don’t want to look bad, so they just make a good scene.

    *Things the government could do*

    – bond child labour completely.
    – make it known to all household and children that their is provision in place for them if they report these criminal acts. By means of newsletters, posters, community conference, flyers and social media etc.
    – use the police and soldier to patrol the streets and communities to both talk to families and take children off the streets.
    -the government need to find away to convince those country that has block their import, that the goods were made by legitimate persons and not child labour, by means of giving them information about the industry /company that made the goods.
    – the government needs to visit these communities and statistics on the number of families that require financial assistance in providing their basic needs and sending their children to school.
    – the government should search out homes and businesses that practice child labour and imprison them but fine them a lot of money so as to help to finance any programme initiated.

    A lot more can be done, however, the way I see it, the government doesn’t have a state of mind ready to help those child. In such situations, the government should be ready to resolve and not allow to escalated this for, over such a long period of time and no progress? Something it wrong with the government and the people of Indian in generally.

  33. adewale on June 12, 2017 at 7:25 am

    let’s make it like this. please to be continued on my own obsavation if we can do it like this that one of our own Nigerian childhood that is working as slavery in India can’t fight for themselves and we make all our own sodia to be around and rescued when they make agent to be follow if u can here from me by calling my number am adewale sureman the great

  34. Donik Andrew on June 12, 2017 at 6:17 am

    let’s step forward to stop child labour.

  35. Shuntae King on June 12, 2017 at 6:15 am

    Child labor and slave labor needs to be ended worldwide. It’s sad what they do in India but I’m quite sure it’s rampant world even in first world countries it’s behind the scenes. It’s needs to be stopped the UN needs to step in and do something about. Maybe multiple online petitions to various heads of various nations or various lawmakers of various nations would help some. More aid from other countries for struggling families so children wouldn’t have to work would help a lot more and government grants to wipe out debts owed by families who cannot repay funded by first world countries would help a lot also. This sort of thing should be done in all nations this is happening with India being the first one.

  36. Arslan Aslam on June 12, 2017 at 5:57 am

    We should try our best that the things we can do should do for the betterment of society because all the matters can not be solved by government

  37. Arslan Aslam on June 12, 2017 at 5:55 am

    A great curse to any country is the child labour . It can be prevented by educating the society try to decrease inflation level, building no. of government school, and above all developing a system that could educate the children by own its own bearing all their expenses.

  38. daniel on June 12, 2017 at 2:42 am

    this is an avenue to show love. let’s save a child today.

  39. Airen godwin on June 12, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Child labour is one of most popular means parent feel they are training the child not knowing they are punishing the child

  40. Usama on June 12, 2017 at 1:51 am

    Child abuse also because of child labour…
    It should be banned…

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