How To Stop Child Labour In India

Ever wondered how to stop child labour after observing a poor kid toiling in the harsh sun instead of being at school? Learn about the causes of child labour and the legal measures to prevent it.

By Jasmine Kaur  • 14 min read

How To Stop Child Labour In India
Two boys working at a shipyard

Child labour is rampant in India and across the world. According to UNICEF, 10.1 million children are working as child labourers in India. Shockingly, this constitutes for 13% of the total workforce in the country. ParentCircle strongly believes little hands are meant to play and not work, and takes a look at this social issue to find practical ways to stop it. To know how to stop child labour, let’s first understand the different types and reasons for child labour.

Types of child labour

The different types of child labour that are prevalent in India are:

  • Industrial child labour in sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, poultry, textile, fireworks and jewellery
  • Bonded child labour in mines, stone quarries, etc.
  • Commercial child labour in small businesses like tea shops, hotels and retail outlets
  • Domestic child labour in households

Child labour: Causes and effects

The following are some of the common causes of child labour in India:

  • Poverty and illiteracy of parents
  • Disability or addiction of parents
  • Poor socio-economic conditions of the families
  • Lure of money
  • Limited access to proper education
  • Lack of awareness of the ill-effects of child labour

Child labour has some serious effects on the child, his family and society. Children employed from a young age are highly vulnerable to diseases due to the hazardous work conditions that prevail almost everywhere. The increasing number of children at work results in a decline in educated and skilled labour, and has a huge negative impact on the nation’s overall progress. Child labour is a great hurdle for the social and economic development of the nation.

How to stop child labour in India

To know about the ways to stop child labour in India, we reached out to Priti Mahara, who is a Policy Research and Advocacy Director at Child Rights and You (CRY). Here we bring you the key points of the interview.

What is precisely meant by child labour?

International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labour as, '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 is 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.'

According to the Indian legislation, a ‘child’ is anyone who is under 14 years of age, and an ‘adolescent’ is anyone between 14 and 18 years of age.

The legislation seeks to prohibit and regulate child labour as per the following criteria:

For children under 14

No child under 14 can be employed or permitted to work in any occupation or process. However, there are exemptions to the rule, which allow a child to:

1. Help her family or family enterprise – The vagueness of this exemption makes it challenging to differentiate ‘work’ from ‘help’ as the child is allowed to help in family enterprises after school hours or during vacations.

2. Work in the audio-visual entertainment industry as an artist or work in sporting activities as an athlete – This includes working in films, sporting events, television, and so on. However, this work is only permitted as long as it doesn’t affect the child’s education. Moreover, this exception excludes circus work, which means children are not allowed to work in a circus, even as artists.

For children between 14 and 18

The Indian law divides work into hazardous and non-hazardous categories as identified by the Technical Advisory Committee constituted under the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. The Schedule to the Act enlists 18 occupations and 65 processes that are hazardous to children's lives and health. No adolescent is permitted to work in any hazardous occupation and process.

However, the act does permit adolescents to work in the ‘non-hazardous’ category with certain conditions to safeguard them:

  1. A maximum of six hours of work are permitted per day, with at least one hour of rest in between
  2. One full day off per week
  3. The employer should follow health and safety rules for adolescents working for them

We need to keep in mind that allowing children to work can affect their education, health, protection and developmental needs. It also obstructs their right to play and leisure, which are crucial to the developmental needs of all people up to the age of 18 years. Balancing work/help with education is always a challenge for children. So, even though children and adolescents can work within certain conditions, the adults around them should be responsible enough to not exploit them. Additionally, they should help the children balance work without compromising education and leisure.

What are some ways in which we can volunteer to help stop child labour?

Creating a network of people working towards a common cause is always helpful. You can also pledge your support to organisations such as CRY, and volunteer with them. In the end what matters is sustenance of your interest and your motivation to raise awareness about this issue when possible. Start small, dream big.

What are some ways for a layperson to support the war against child labour?

How To Stop Child Labour In India
Stop child labour!
  1. Do not hire a child.
  2. Talk to/report people employing child labour.
  3. Support children’s right to education, through volunteering and donations.
  4. Do not support acts like children begging or performing in a roadside circus.
  5. Be empathetic and not sympathetic towards the issue.
  6. Understand that it’s a violation of child rights and cannot be justified in the name of poverty.
  7. Support and facilitate employment for the families of child labourers, and help them with social protection schemes.
  8. Raise awareness amongst child labourers and their families on the social protection schemes that can help them.
  9. Create awareness about the issue in your community.

What should we do when we see an instance of child labour?

If you encounter instances of child labour around you, ask the employer some details about the child such as the age of the child or why he is working. You can educate him about the practice being harmful for children irrespective of their age, and try to sensitise him against it. In case you need to report such an employer, you can call the Child Line number 1098 to rescue the child. You can also approach the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) or the District Collector/District Magistrate concerned, if and when a violation is encountered.

Proactively, you can visit the neighbourhood slums to understand the prevalence of child labour instances. A better awareness of the places these children are coming from and their pain points will help us suggest more holistic, realistic and appropriate solutions.

Education is the key. Convincing the parent and the child about the importance of going to school is critical to support continuing efforts to stop child labour.

Be informed. Knowledge is your strength.

What polices and schemes does the Indian government have in place to deal with child labour?

The legislation that deals with child labour in India is known as the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, treats children found working in contravention of labour laws and children begging or living on the street as children in need of care and protection (CNCP). Section 76.1 talks about the punishment for employing a child to beg, and is stated as follows: 'Whoever employs or uses any child for the purpose of begging or causes any child to beg is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to a fine of one lakh rupees.'

According to the website of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, 'the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme seeks to eliminate all forms of child labour.' It plans to do so by finding child labourers and withdrawing them from work, prepping them for schooling and training them for future jobs. The scheme will also ensure that all the government processes for this are working in unison in order to benefit the children and their families.

It plans pretty much the same for adolescents doing hazardous work. The scheme also aims to raise awareness and create an effective monitoring and tracking system to make sure that children are not extorted. NCLP is presently operational in 313 identified districts across 21 States in India.

How effective are these policies and schemes?

It’s hard to talk about the effectiveness of these policies and schemes with unclear data and a lack of funds to carry out the schemes properly. Like many other programmes designed for the rehabilitation of child labourers, the major challenges to the effectiveness of the National Child Labour Project are:

  1. Poor quality of surveys conducted
  2. Failure to include a significant number of female child labourers in surveys
  3. Lack of provisions to enroll all identified child labourers in the NCLP schools and current duration of education in NCLP schools, etc.

Convergence between different departments like labour, education, social welfare, food and public distribution, SC/ST welfare, minorities welfare and home affairs is required for effectively implementing NCLP as well as the law.

As per a central government written statement in the Parliament in February 2019, a total of 10,826 cases of violation of the Child Labour Act were reported across the country in the past four years. Only 56% cases (6,032) went to the stage of prosecution and conviction attained in just 25% cases (2,701) of the total reported. So, it’s fair to say that a lot needs to be done before we can claim these schemes to be effective.

How can we vote in a way to endorse the best policies and schemes for child labour?

It’d be wise to be aware of the manifesto before voting to see which political parties are most inclined towards children. Also, a quick check on the historical deliverance rate of a particular political party towards children might help. Along with this, knowledge of basic child rights issues will help determine if the promises made on manifestos are the actual needs of children.

How can we be more aware of which companies and establishments hire child labour?

We don't have credible sources to identify which companies or firms employ child and adolescent labour. The only way to know about which firms do this would be to witness them employ child labour. You can become aware of the various child labour laws along with the safety precautions for children and adolescents who work. This will help you understand if the employment is legal or not.

So, as a first step, equip yourself with the knowledge of these laws. And to quote Rippan Kapur, founder of Child Rights and You (CRY), "The responsibility of change lies with all of us." Being responsible citizens and compassionate human beings, let’s start our crusade to end child labour.

About the author:

Written by Jasmine Kaur on 20 June 2019; updated on 18 September 2019

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