Children have always been taken for granted although reams of documents have been churned out by international and national agencies trying to better the child’s tomorrow.
Despite all the words written, promises made and conventions signed too little has changed. A good proportion of children throughout the world, especially in India, form a part of the toiling masses-destitute, deprived and disadvantaged.
Millions of them work in fields and factories, on street corners and in garbage dumps, in private houses and in ‘public’ houses. Most do some work from their earliest years, helping around the home or running errands?
With a low level of education and rundown sense of social ...view middle of the document...
Child labour is preferred by many employers mainly because it is cheap and comes without any liability. Sometimes the parents also offer their children to work for an employer in lieu of a loan or debt.
The constitutional vision (Article 45) of ‘universal’ and ‘compulsory’ education for all children up to the age of 14 is till today an illusory mirage. Parents consider it prudent to send their non-school-going children to work and earn.
The principle of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ being largely followed by school teachers, repulsive methods of teaching and many social discriminations at village schools result in a great number of drop-outs.
These are naturally pushed into the labour market, rural or urban. Lastly the increasing industrialisation and urbanisation and soaring materialistic aspirations have also a say in this respect.
The phenomenon of child labour is not however new or recent. Even a long time back children were being sold and purchased as slaves to the rich. Poor children were also employed in well-to-do houses. Generally parents would involve their children in their own professions.
In the Gurukul system of education, the students were asked to perform our various tasks for their teachers like begging for collecting fuel and milking cows, though it was all a vital part of their learning.
Exploitation of children at work or making them work at the expense of education has always attracted the flak of sensible people. According to Manusmriti and Aarthashastra the king was to make education of every child compulsory.
Despite that children would do some work either at home or in the field along with their parents Kautiya prohibited the sale and purchase of children.
Child labour in its present form made its appearance around the mid-19 th century when modern industries in India by the British.
Disintegration of indigenous self-sufficient village economies and subsequent scarcity of food and soaring prices compelled the villagers to migrate to the new industrial centres for livelihood.
The employers found children more sincere and easier to bully into harder work then their elders; they could also be paid less. The magnitude of child labour gradually began to grow, especially in deep mines, factories and plantations.
Simultaneously their conditions of work became more inhuman, more pathetic. Many philanthropists began to denounce the modus operandi of employers and the exploitation and abuse of children.
This resulted in the First Factory Act (1881) which laid down those children between the ages of 7 and 12 years could not be made to work for more than nine hours a day (Today the hours seem astoundingly hard).
Since then several constitutional and administrative measures have been taken at international and national levels to ameliorate the conditions of child labour and to ultimately eradicate it.
Both the Indian Constitution and the International Labour Organisation believe that a human child should be given...