Updated: Jun 16
Written By: Upasana Borah, N.E.F. Law College, Guwahati, Assam
India is the most populated country where child labour is a global phenomenon. The problem is more acute in developing countries including India where overpopulation has given birth to poverty and illiteracy. Children are the future of a nation. They are the ones, who have to carry on their shoulders the responsibilities of tomorrow. Complaints of their exploitation by the employer are on the rise. The practice of employment of child labour is condemned in almost every international forum. However, it is unfortunate that despite of constitutional provisions prohibiting employment of children in hazardous occupations and processes that have been regulating employment of children in certain occupations millions of children continue to work in firework and mine factories. The poverty-ridden society has given birth to many social evils and crimes against children. Due to the lack of means, the poor class children are deprived of education. From the very childhood, they are forced to work or made to beg.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 provides for the prohibition of engagement of children in certain employments and for regulating the conditions of work of children in certain employments. However, prior to the enactment of the 2016 amendment act, it was applicable only to 18 occupations and 65 processes. This clearly points out that the Act lacks implementation. Indeed the law relating to the employment of children has failed to minimize the growth of child labour. The Hon’ble Supreme Court o0f India has also expressed its deep concern, distress, and anguish and directed to abolish the culture of child labour. Since 2003, June 12 has been chosen as World Day against Child Labour to force on the urgent need to eradicate child labour. The International Labour Organisation Convention No. 138 Article 3rd define hazardous child labour as “work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to harm health, safety or morale of children”. In 1881, the first factory legislation viz. The Factories Act, 1881 was passed. The act was applicable to all manufacturing premises using power driven machinery and employing 100 or more persons. The act prohibited employment of children below 7 years of age. The Act limited the maximum number of working hours per day to 9 for children between 7 and 12 within a interval of 1 hour.
Child Labour is an illegal and heinous crime where the employment of children below 14 years in an industry or business even though it varies in form and degree. According to Child Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 as amended in the year 2016 defines a “child” as any person below the age of 14 and it strictly prohibits employment of children including domestic help. It is a cognizable criminal offense for forcing children to work in any hazardous process, business or industry. Thus it is also a violation of children’s rights. A scar on the World’s conscience in the 21st century, it is a social evil and bane against development. Generally, it is regressive in nature because it is a serious global issue and it needs worth paying attention to it. In order to prevent child labour, Government has taken a serious view and enacted the two new legislation viz. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education , 2009 and made a drastic amendments in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 amended in the year 2016. While the former act seeks to provide compulsory education to children between 6-12 years the later it was amended and provided employment of children below 14 years of age is prohibited in all occupations.
EMERGING ISSUES ON CHILD LABOUR
The evil of employment of children in organized and unorganized sectors in India is a product of economic , social and among others inadequate legislative measures. Social evils evolved in the employment of children are widespread illiteracy resulting in the lack of development of child’s personality. The economic evils have not deprived children at work from education but also led to high infant morality, morbidity and malnutrition particularly in the weaker sections of the society in urban and rural areas. The indifference of the legislature to provide adequate legislative measures to ban employment of children and lack of effective enforcement of legislative provisions also resulted in effectively curtailing the growth of child labour.
CAN THE CHILD LABOUR BE ABOLISHED?
According to a study report of UNICEF, generally child labour exists in the world as the subject to poverty. The report also says that these children have never enough to eat and lack clothing. Owing to the absence of minimum medical care , about 15 million children under five , die of diseases every year while 100 million children under five are malnourished and are therefore susceptible to various diseases.
In India millions of families are below the poverty line and they do not send their children to work in order to meet their bare subsistence of life.  Any legislation totally prohibiting child labour would virtually amount to inflicting on these children an unbearable suffering.
IS POVERTY THE RESULT OF CHILD LABOUR?
Whether poverty leads to child labour or child labour leads to poverty ? Suffice to say that both are inextricably somewhere linked up. We, in India may be somewhat relieved by the fact that the child labour is not an exclusive feature of poor countries. For the families below poverty line survival is their sole priority of living. As the result children’s are taken upon themselves on the onerous task of contributing to the family income and for their two time meals. The nexus between poverty and child labour is totally complex. Children are less troublesome and more helpless as compared to the adults. Absence of social welfare schemes access to easy loans and population explosion aggravate problem.
ISSUES RELATING TO ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD LABOUR LEGISLATION
The major issues involved in enforcement of the Child Labour(Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 are as follows-
1. Low conviction rate.
2. Procedural LAW lapses by enforcement agencies.
3. Penal Provisions are not deterrent.
4. Administrative difficulties faced by enforcement agencies.
5. Lack of knowledge of relevant laws by enforcement agencies.
6. Non-availability of witnesses.
7. Flaw of medical report in order to age determination of the child.
Poverty cannot be ignored but Government should introduce schemes for the poverty line education system where every children must be compulsory educated. The link between child labour and free and compulsory education has been well recognized. In order to eliminate the prevalence of child labour Article 21A guarantees Free and compulsory Education to all the children of the age of 6-14 years of age in accordance with law. In order to achieve this object the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) has been enacted.
Children’s are the gift of God. They are born to live and blossom. It is to be noted that the Article 24 of the Constitution of India and The Child labour Act, 1986 prohibits child labour in factories, industries and any other places with hazardous means. It also prohibits domestic help of any child. Hence a large number of children’s were deprived of the education system. There are almost millions of children who were still unaware about education and thus child labour seems to be continuing since generation to generation. We should never forget that Today’s children is the Future for Tomorrow. It is a matter to grave concern that in India despite the constitutional mandate and statutory measures a good number of children are denied from their basic rights and opportunities and thereby they are also deprived from childhood. Where it’s their age to play and grow they are fighting on road for their meal and to run their family. Sometimes people take advantage of it and make them sit nearby traffic signal in order to beg .