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We go places in our day to day lives and usually observe things we don’t understand. We hustle because we need to resolve our own teething troubles rather than coddling things we can’t seem to fathom. I observe such things too and one of them hits me the hardest. Now you are thinking, another severely boring blog post!! I understand. 🙂

Let me bombast about Child Labour today. Child labour is a concern because it damages, spoils and destroys the future of children. Children are the hope and future of a nation. Yet, there are millions deprived children in world who have never known a normal, carefree childhood.

The rise of child labour began in the late 1700s and early 1800s in the United States. When the Industrial Revolution started, many families had to find someone to work or they wouldn’t survive. Child labour has existed to varying extents, through most of history. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, many children aged 5–14 from poorer families still worked in Europe, the United States and various colonies of European powers. It has been in succession since then.

India in fact is the hotbed of child labour worldwide, with over 45m children involved in forced labor (other sources claim that over 60m kids are affected). That’s nearly ¼ of child labourers on the planet. We say children are forced to work because none of them is a free individual at this age; they depend on their parents (and their environment) who make decisions for them, most of the time because of the lack of alternatives. These are kids forced into labor by circumstances imposed on them at birth. Child labour typically means the employment of children in any manual work with or without payment. Child labor is not only limited to India, it happens to be a global phenomenon.

The issue is a vicious one as children in India have historically been helping parents at their farms and other primitive activities. Another concept that needs explanation is the concept of bonded labour which is one of the most common forms of exploitation. Bonded labour means the children are forced to work as employees in lieu of payment of debt by the parents due to exorbitant rates of repayment of interest.

Poverty and lack of social security are the main causes of child labour. The increasing gap between the rich and the poor, privatization of basic services and the neo-liberal economic policies cause major sections of the population out of employment and without basic needs. This adversely affects children more than any other group. Entry of multi-national corporations into industry without proper mechanisms to hold them accountable has led to the use of child labour.

A growing phenomenon is using children as domestic workers in urban areas. The conditions in which children work is completely unregulated and they are often made to work without food, and very low wages, resembling situations of slavery. There are cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of child domestic workers. The argument for domestic work is often that families have placed their children in these homes for care and employment. There has been a recent notification by the Ministry of Labor making child domestic work as well as employment of children in dhabas, tea stalls and restaurants “hazardous” occupations.

National and Multinational companies also recruit children in garment industries for more work and less pay which is absolutely unethical. In general, laws and government bans against child labour only have a very limited impact and in some cases they aggravate the situation, causing poor families to end up poorer. In India, it also reveals the lack of workers’ rights but also problems law enforcement. Aside the economics of child labor, there are also socio-cultural problems: caste, class, discrimination and cultural biases (e.g. against girls).

Lack of quality universal education has also contributed to children dropping out of school and entering the labor force. A major concern is that the actual number of child laborers goes undetected. Laws that are meant to protect children from hazardous labor are ineffective and not implemented correctly.

Over population, illiteracy, poverty, debt trap are some of the common causes which are instrumental in this issue. Overburdened, debt-trapped parents fail to understand the importance of a normal childhood under the pressures of their own troubles and thus it leads to the poor emotional and mental balance of a child’s brain which is not prepared to undertake rigorous field or domestic tasks.

The reason child labour in India is so hard to fight is also that most of it is informal, often occurs within the boundary of the family, and is therefore very hard to track down. And when it comes to legal sanctions, taking action against the parents is probably the worst thing to do for these kids. Whatever you do, they’re likely to end up worse off than they were before. Many argue rightfully that what matters is the children’s rights and freedom to choose how they want to lead their own lives. However the reality is much different and often times we’re all caught in traditions and family pressure. Breaking free sometimes also means breaking up with your family or taking the risk to create deep tensions and misunderstandings. It’s the classic tale of family responsibilities vs. freedom.

By law, India protects every child under 14 against the threat of forced labour. In the 1990s, government programs offered to pay such children a small amount of money ($2/month) in exchange of attending school. It took over 20 years for India to realize that its strategy was unimpressive and lacked ambition and real motivation. Efforts were too slow and uncoordinated.

The future of a nation is determined by the way it treats its children and  women, after all, children imply a hope, a hope to strengthen not only the economy of the country, but also to provide the country with skilled human resources who have access to the basic amenities essential for the existence coupled with the tenets of the education in India. It is the moral duty of every citizen for the country to ensure that the childhood of our children is protected and not marred with instances like that of child labour which arise out of poverty and helplessness.

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