Child labour in India Society – legal services in India

Child Labour in Indian Society
“The child is a soul with a being, a nature and capacities of its own, who must be helped to find them, to grow into their maturity, into a fullness of physical and vital energy and the utmost breadth, depth and height of its emotional, intellectual and spiritual being; otherwise there cannot be a healthy growth of
the nation.”— P N Bhagawati, Former CJI.

Almost one-third of the world population consists of children. Therefore they need to be cared and protected, to keep up and improve posterity. Children are important component in social structure and potential future carries to the culture. Now the question arises, who is a child? Or who can be considered as a child? Finding a single definition to describe a “child” is becoming an uphill task. The plain dictionary meaning of the word „child‟ is that, a young person especially between infancy and youth.1

Biologically, a child is anyone between the stages of infancy and adulthood, or child is a human being between the stages of birth and puberty. The legal definition of “child” refers to a minor, or somebody who is yet to become an adult. It is used as an opposite to „adult‟. It is not concerned with the age. The only qualification is that the child should be unable to maintain himself. Hence a child though not a minor is still a child as long as it is unable to maintain himself.2

In contrast to the preceding decades India seems to have done enough for the protection of children from all untoward circumstances. In keeping with international development in the area of child welfare, India as a democratic state has launched scores of program and policies devised on statutory footing. The Ministry of Women and Child has been instrumental in this direction and it has particularly catered to children in crisis situation such as street children, children who has been abused, abandoned, children in conflict with law etc.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”3 “Child” means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.4
“A child is a person who is going to carryon what you have started…the fate of humanity is in his
hands.”— Abraham Lincoln

What is child labour.

Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. The participation of children or adolescents above the minimum age for admission to employment in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

Reasons For Child Labour

There are many reasons for the existence of child labour and it varies with place and place to place. In India, poverty is one of the important factors for poverty, but it‟s not the sole factor. Children provide cheap labour, the person who wants labour has to pay less to them than adult labour. The child can be commanded more than an adult. The pull factor of the child labour is the profit maximization.

The main causes to failure to control the child labour are; poverty, low wages than adult, unemployment, absence of schemes for family allowance, migration to urban areas, large family size, children being cheaply available, non existence of strict provisions for compulsory education, illiteracy, ignorance of parents and traditional attitudes 13.

What are the solutions

There are some well-known solutions for getting and keeping children in school and out of child labour, and many others, but their effective implementation is still limited:

• aligning the minimum working age and the end of compulsory schooling.

• improving the overall quality of education, which increases the chances of students staying in school and succeeding.

• abolishing or reducing school costs, which may be unaffordable for some and include school-feeding facilities.

• register every child at birth, as a birth certificate with proof of legal identity and age is often required to access education.

• providing or increasing universal child benefits as part of countries’ social protection system (see below) and other policy instruments, which could potentially promote more equitable access to education.

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