Rajan Tandon : A child is said to be the father of mankind and future of a nation. How far these prophecies are correct in Indian context can be easily judged by glancing the records concerning the above subject.
In fact child labour is an activity of engaging of children below 14 years of age for economic activities, either part or full time. This practice of involving a child in such kind of activities is quite harmful for his or her mental and physical development.
India is sadly the home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. The census found an an increase in the number of child labourers from 11.3 millions in 1991 to 12.6 millions in 2001. The census of 2011 of India reveals that about 14.5 million child population, of the age group 5 to 14 years, out of total 260 million child population acts as child labour here. As per United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70% of child labour is deployed in agriculture and related activities in India. Outside of agriculture, child labour is observed in almost all informal sectors of the Indian economy. There is also close link between child labour and child trafficking. However, so far almost all anti trafficking work is largely limited to child trafficking for commercial sex exploitation.
The Constitution of India clearly speaks about safeguarding the rights of children and their protection from economic exploitation. Article 24 of the Indian Constitution prohibits child labour. Additionally, various laws and the Indian Penal Code, the Juvenile Justice (care & protection) of Children Act – 2000 and Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act 1986 provide a basis in law to identify, prosecute and stop child labour in India. The sad scenario is that all agencies concerning child labour has failed so far in curbing this epidemic. The conviction rate in such cases is also quite low. It clearly indicate that there is still scope for improvement in the legal approach in this regard.
The best approach would be for the government to completely ban the employment of children upto 16 years in hazardous as well as non- hazardous industries. The offence related to child labour should be made non-bailable with heavy penalty. The employer(s) found violating the law should be held strictly accountable. Besides above there should be provision for their rehabilitation and education. The National Child Labour Policy (NCLP), started in 1988, has not shown the good colours so far. The government should specify and provide separate budget in this connection. The budgetary provisions as published on the Ministry of Labour and Employment Government of India for various child labour schemes indicates that in the year 1995-96 Rs 3440 lakhs were allocated and Rs 3429.71 lakhs were spent on the various schemes. In the financial year 2000-2001 Rs 6700 lakhs were allocated and expenditure was about Rs 6191.67 lakhs on the schemes. In the financial year 2011-12 the allocation was about Rs 14300 lakhs and expenditure was Rs 14266 lakhs. Indeed the money has been pumped but the proper result is yet to be achieved. We are far behind from the international standards as laid by International Labour Organization (ILO). Until and unless there be strict and speaking law(s) it is a hard to achieve the goals enshrined in Indian Constitution.