Aug 29, 2020

Childhood is the most precious period in every human being’s lifetime, when one explores , learns , adapts to various aspects of life for one’s overall growth and development. It is the most impressionable part of a child’s journey before becoming an adult . Instead of this ,if children are forced into working at an age which  is not permissible by law ,it robs from them that very childhood and creates a permanent dent in their future . This detour in their life leads to long term ill-effects like malnutrition, depression, mental and physical disability . 

Sarita, a 16 year old domestic help from Kannad , died at her employer’s house in July,2018. According to the post-mortem reports, her stomach was half filled with toilet cleaning liquid. After months of struggle to take this case to the sub-judge and DLSA authority, it was found that there is hardly any investigation into the case and only charges of bonded labour have been made against the employer. After 6-7 months when the enquiry report was presented by the activists who had filed the case, the finding of the report stated sexual assault, human trafficking, murder or abetment to suicide. However, no justice has been served yet due to lack of evidence. 

Another heartbreaking case is of Mehbood Ahmed, who at the age of fourteen years was beaten, abused and forced to work for sixteen hours a day. He was not given proper food, shelter and basic amenities for the survival of him and his friends.  After ten years of struggle and torture, he finally got rescued by Kailash Satyaraj Andolan and was reunited with  his family . However , since his family was very poor and he was the eldest of five brothers, after few months his father again asked him to work for their family’s survival. 

In a bustling commercial hub in Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh lives Amina Seikh ,a thirteen year old school going girl, who after the school hours gobbles up her lunch and walks for two kilometres to reach her father’s glass bangles workshop, where she sits in a badly ventilated room with her eyes focused on welding the glass bangles. There are a  few occasions, when glass pierces her hand and she just plugs the wound with a muslin cloth. She also said once that when her father receives bulk order, she works all day through and skips her school homework. During the festival season, she does not go to school but instead helps her father all day so that he can earn money for their family’s survival. 

All these case tell us that our Indian Judiciary and law-making bodies have failed miserably in helping the nation from eradicating child labour in India. Even after implementation of various laws like The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 , Article 21(A), 24 and 51 of The Constitution of India, 1950, The Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection) Act, 2005, The Indian Penal Code, 1908,  the use of child labour could not abolished in India. The rules and punishments in the acts have been reduced to mere words and sentences written in paper due to lack of implementation on the ground level . 

The  census data by Child Rights and You (CRY) reveals that there are nearly 1.5 lakh child labourers in India between the age group of 7-14 years who are illiterate. Children who support the family economy work more than six months in a year . Shocking data reveals that almost 2 million children have compromised on their education . 2011 Census Data reveals there are close to 10.13 million child labourers between the age group of 5-14 years in India and this number increases every year . However, some states report a higher prevalence of child labour like Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra ,Uttar Pradesh , and Madhya Pradesh which together constitute nearly 57% of the total population of working children in India.

Finally, after thirty years of struggle, The Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Act, 1986 was brought in Parliament for amendment in 2012, but still there are loopholes in the amendments like children between the age group of 14-18 years are allowed to work in a family business to support the family, but only after school hours and during vacations. A family business is any work or business which is done or run by the members of the family. The business could belong to or be run by an immediate family or extended family. In this amendment, the definition of family includes cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts. If a child is found working at a factory and his employer insists that he/she is his/her neice and nephew, it will be difficult to disapprove. 

There is a considerable reduction in the number of hazardous industries where children cannot be employed from 18 to just 3 , namely mines, inflammable substances and hazardous processes.

Child artists are allowed to work in movies, advertisements, Television shows, sports etc. and  be paid appropriate remuneration  with the consent of their parents but are not allowed to be  employed in circuses or on streets. 

Other hindrances include, the identification of child’s age as there is no actual proof of that because of forged or fake IDs or no authenticated ID at all, which makes it difficult for officers to track the child labourers and protect them. There are instances when the officers reach the employer’s factory or industry but  all the child labourers are either removed or they are hid so as to protect the employer from criminal charges. 

Every employer who employs an adolescent working in his establishment has to perform certain duties under the law.

It is the mandatory duty of an employer to maintain a register which should include details of the adolescent such as name and date of birth, hours and periods of work , intervals of rest and the nature of work performed. In most of the factories, the employer fails to follow the rules and no officer comes to inspect the register and even if the inspector comes to the factory to inspect, they get bribed by the employer. 

The employers also have to provide good sanitation, safe environment and health care to their workers. Other facilities such as drinking water, latrines, urinals, protective gear for eyes and body, etc. should be provided too.