The sight of a young teen serving tea at your desk might not be so frequent nowadays, but one cannot deny the presence of child labour in our society.
While awareness against child labour has increased and today we might not be randomly addressing any young lad as Chotu, yet, it is also a fact that we neither know the names of those who run errands for us nor the reason behind their employment, which is a social evil.
According to a recent Government data, every 11th child (in the age group of 5-18 years) is working in India. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Thus June 12 each year is celebrated as World Day Against Child Labour. How far has this had a positive impact in the Indian context is a question that Metrolife seeks to answer.
“An analysis of a recent census data by CRY reveals that child labour has been decreasing at a mere 2.2 per cent per year over the last decade, contrary to popular perception of its substantial reduction,” informs Komal Ganotra, director, policy research, Child Rights and You. What is more startling in the report is the fact that Urban Child Labour has grown by more than 50 per cent!
“The probable reason for this increase could be two – migration of people from rural to urban areas including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors and involvement of children in family employment,” says Ganotra. Children from the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are often trafficked for this reason. But ‘poverty’ just becomes an ‘easy reason’ for justification of this social evil.
“If we take the example of the handicraft industry, it requires small hands and the existing economic pressure on families makes children work in these factories,” adds Amit Kaushik, practice head, education and skills development, IPE Global Pvt Ltd. After the laws have been made stringent, the factories haven’t shut shop. Instead, children in them have been replaced by adults.
Kaushik agrees that the awareness to stop child labour has increased manifold since 2002 but “considering the size of India, it will require a huge cultural switch and change in societal norms to bring an end to child labour.”
Today, over a crore children continue to be a part of the country’s workforce. “Our rescue missions are continuously saving children from different parts. Yesterday, we rescued 19 children who were enrolled in making soles for footwear in Nangloi. Day before, we rescued 27 children working in a garment factory in Seemapuri,” says Rakesh Sanger, national coordinator, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA).Sanger believes that the effect of strong law enforcement has had positive effects on reducing child labour in the country.
“When we rescue children and bring them to our Mukti Ashram, the state of their mind is like that of a bonded labourer – who works according to the wish and commands of the malik. After a day or two of counselling, they start sharing their tales of hardship, including physical and sexual abuse. They work for 10-15 hours in a day for just
Rs 100 a week.”
The NGOs emphasise on the follow up of these children after rescue since there are chances of them becoming labourers again. “Some of the children rescued by us are today attempting competitive exams,” says Sanger with a sense of pride in his voice. However, the conviction to say no to the temptation of cheap labour will rise only from our homes. “There is a growing awareness in today’s youth about child labour,” says Ganotra, passing the baton in anticipation of a ‘changed society’