In our society an age is decided for achieving every task and before reaching that stage each task seems to be a burden. The hands which were meant for holding books and toys are washing dishes and carrying burden. Child labor is a severe issue that is being addressed from many decades and still not even a single country can confidently say that every child is living its childhood without engaging their hands in any kind of struggle. Tiny toddlers are supposed to enjoy their tender age and make memories not to get them entangled with the high-tech dangerous apparatuses. As truly said by Nelson Mandela “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of the children”. Our nation is leaving no page unturned to restore the fairyland for children. Many laws and judgments keep on adding new stepping stones for a better world. According to the reports in 2011, the total number of children working as child labor in our country has declined from 1.26 crore as per the census 2001 to 43.53 lakh which shows 65 per cent reduction which indicates a developing position.
There are many legislations which define the word ‘child’. A child is a young human who is below the age of puberty or a person who has not attained the age of legal majority. To put simply, a child is the person who is between the age of infancy and adolescent. In India, different laws define ‘child’ and ‘minor’ separately in a different sense.
As defined by the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 a child is defined as a person who has not completed 14 years of age.
According to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 a child is defined as a person who has not completed 18 years of age.
The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act 1966, defines a child as a person who has not attained the age of 14 years.
Article 45 of the Constitution of India defines a child as a person less than 14 years of age.
Child labor is a deep-rooted problem which requires deep cleaning of society and mindsets. Child labor is not only an infringement of human rights but also gross seclusion of four basic rights namely, survival, development rights, protection rights and the rights of participation.
Child labor is the act of exploitation of children by engaging them in any form of labor or work and depriving them of their childhood, forbid them to attend school. This labor is also defined as any work which is harmful to the mental and physical development of children. It is also considered as work which affects a child morally, physically, socially, mentally negatively and is harmful to them. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and any work which 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.
UNICEF defined child labor as children working before, they reached the lawful minimum age for employment in their country, often the same as the cut-off age for compulsory attendance at school. According to UNICEF and International Labor Organization, child labor is, “Child labor is abuse that deprives children of their childhood and their dignity which hampers their access to education and the acquisition of skills and which is performed under deplorable conditions harmful to their health and their development”
According to the Indian Constitution, “No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other 8 hazardous employment”.
Different types of child labor
The international organizations have categorized different forms of child labor.
Hazardous child labor - It is described as the worst form of child labor. This is the kind of work where children get to indulge in work that is out of their ability. It is very heavy work like firecrackers making industries, metal or iron industry, glass industry or in mines.
Non-hazardous child labor - This kind of labor is not strident on children. Although child labor itself is the worst form of labor but, all labors are not harsh on children rather some of the jobs help them build their personality and character. Some forms of help in the development of a child and make them independent, also inculcate some moral qualities. This kind of child labor also helps economically weaker families to make them stable. Working as a babysitter, working in shops, delivering the newspaper, etc.
Child trafficking - Child trafficking is the illegal transportation of children for their exploitation. It is the transfer of the child for consideration. It is an extended form of bonded labor. Children are trafficked for the purpose of begging, prostitution, etc.
Causes of child labor
The various government studies and policy statements show the following are the major reasons for engagement of children in labor in India. These issues become very evident from the plans of the government being targeted towards solving these issues.
Poverty is one of the biggest causes of driving children to workplaces. In such circumstances earning at a very early age is the only hope for their survival. In many instances parents force their child to get employed in hazardous jobs for income.
Lack of education
In backward and remote areas children do not have adequate and meaningful alternatives. There are no means to impart education to the population in such areas. Lack of schooling results in missing educational qualifications and higher skills thus perpetuating their life in poverty.
In our country, the greatest number of child labor belong to socio-economically poor families, the working members are often short of employment. Even if they are employed it's on low wages or bad working conditions and rising price of commodities deteriorates their conditions further. This leads to toddlers to fend for themselves by earning their livelihood.
Parents tend to send their child in order to earn a sufficient amount of money to get rid of the debt. They even compromise with the low wages and pathetic working conditions just for the sake of their livelihood.
The weak policies of legal framework
There are laws but the system lags behind in its implementation. There are numerous cases of child labor which remains unregistered due to corruption in every nerve of the framework.
Legislation for preventing Child Labor
The Law of the Land that is The Constitution Law embodies upon the States a duty to make provisions for the welfare of Children. The Laws related to prevention of Child labor and of their welfare are not only confined to the Constitution Law but we have a number of separate sovereign statutes for the purpose of welfare of Children and to Prevent Child Abuse.
The Constitution of India
The 86th Amendment in December 2002 created a duty upon individuals by adding a clause after 51A(j) as- Article 51A(K), The Duty is laid upon the Parent or Guardian to provide Opportunities for Education to his child or ward, under the age of six and fourteen years.
State government’s role
Under Article 15(3), the State Government is empowered to make special provisions relating to children, which will not be violative of Right to Equality.
Article 21 focusses on that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to the procedure established by law. The Supreme Court held that “life” includes freedom from exploitation and to live a dignified life.
Article 21A was inserted by the 86th amendment by virtue of which the States are under a duty to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
Article 23 Prohibits Trafficking in human beings and forced labor and such are made punishable offenses under Substantive Laws.
Article 24 Prevention of Employment of a child under Hazardous employment, no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
Article 39(e) states “That the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength”.
Article 39(f) The children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment.
Article 41: “The state shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provisions for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want”.
Article 45: The State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years”.
Article 47: “State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standards of living of its people and the improvement of public health are among its primary duties and, in particular, the state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except from medical purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health”.
The Factories Act, 1948
The Act lays down different restrictions as per the age group of Children as:
Employment of Children below the age of 14 years is prohibited.