PROTECTION OF THE UNPROTECTED: CHILD LABOUR

Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal

INTRODUCTION

Child labour is widely defined as employment that deprives children of their youth, their ability, and their dignity, as well as work that is detrimental to their physical and mental development. The number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million, with 5.6 million boys and 4.5 million girls, according to Census 2011 statistics.

Child labour is seen in a variety of industries, including farming, industry, construction, and house chores. Children are compelled to labour for a variety of reasons, including migration, catastrophes, an absence of adequate work, and poverty, which is the most affecting factor.

CAUSES OF CHILD LABOUR

Despite legislative prohibitions and initiatives against child labour, India’s child labour situation is deteriorating. Children’s access to school, basic nutrition, and other key prerequisites for their growth and wellness have all experienced significant setbacks, with many more new children falling into the trap of forced labour and current child labourers’ situations deteriorating significantly.

People from rural areas with limited access to education frequently have no other option than to remove their children from school and put them to work to help feed their families. Children are sold to child traffickers by their fathers and mothers, or parents abandon their children in the countryside while looking for work in a metropolitan city, due to the dismal circumstances of many families. They are also vulnerable to other sorts of abuse, such as sexual exploitation and the generation of child pornography, which can occur both in person and online.

INDIA AND ITS LAWS AGAINST CHILD LABOUR

The Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016 (“the Act”), is the law in India that regulates child labour. This law governs children’s employment and prohibits children under the age of 14 from working in any capacity other than as a child artist or in a family – owned company. The Act forbids children from working in 13 occupations and 51 procedures.

The proposed modifications appear to be helpful, but they also have drawbacks. The latest modifications, for example, prevent youngsters from working in any capacity, while allowing them to work in family enterprises/businesses, which in turn have a high chance of developing into trafficking in the rural areas, where mostly all the small businesses are family owned.

Article 24 of the Fundamental Rights listed in the Constitution of India expressly forbids the employment of children under the age of fourteen in hazardous factories that could cause them physical and mental harm in the long run as well as restricts employing children in industries, etc. Article 21(A) of the Constitution of India guarantees free and compulsory education for all children aged 6 to 14 years. Everyone, including a parent or guardian of a child, has a fundamental duty under Article 51 of the Constitution of India – a component of the Directive Principles of State Policy – to give educational opportunities to his or her child between the ages of 6 and 14 years.

The Delhi High Court directed the Government of the NCT of Delhi to come out with a comprehensive strategy to handle the issue of rehabilitation of these rescued children by providing some type of economic help so that the parents or guardians do not force them to work as child labourers again to meet their basic necessities and to supplement their income for their basic survival, in the case of Jayakumar Nat & Anr. vs State of NCT of Delhi & Anr.

IMPACT OF COVID-19

The continuing outbreak has exacerbated pre-existing reasons of child labour while also bringing in new ones. For instance, children are forced to labour since their families’ salaries are insufficient to support them. Because of the high number of persons who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, family’s financial problems, especially in the rural areas have gotten worse.

More children entered the workforce or work on family-owned businesses/farms due to the needs of these families for extra hands to earn enough to have a decent meal each day. Children’s mental, physical, and nutritional well-being have all been affected by the pandemic. Due to the crisis, schools have been closed for the longest time, preventing students access to nutritious school meals.

According to UNICEF, COVID-19 restrictions caused more than 1.5 billion children to miss school. As a result, children have been compelled to work to support their families. One of the reasons why child labour skyrocketed in the Covid-19 pandemic was that children are not only a cheap supply of labour, but they are also less likely to contract the Covid virus.

Along with this, many employers believe that they have dexterous fingers and feet, allowing them to be easily crowded into tight areas, and they are unable to object to the factory owners’ abuse of them. More than 94 percent of children claimed that the economic difficulties at family and home forced them to work, according to a latest survey.

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS

Labour rules and regulations must be followed to the letter. Child Protection Committees should work effectively to identify vulnerable children as well as aid their households via social welfare programs.

Educators as well as other professionals of the educational system can act as frontline protectors for children, alerting other stakeholders such as social workers to circumstances in which youngsters show signs of distress or suggest they work long hours. School teachers must verify that all students who were previously enrolled in classes are re-enrolled.

In India, the number of complaints and FIRs filed remains low when compared to the real number of child labour cases. Charitable organizations and other Non-Governmental Organizations might take on the responsibility of filing as many child labour complaints as possible.

Non-Profit Organizations will be able to make stronger requests to the administration to tighten rescue processes and better administer compensation and rehabilitation schemes related to child labour if the number of complaints increases. Because most of these children work in hazardous, frequently exploitative situations, their general health and nutrition decrease, leaving them exposed to a range of infections. Acknowledging that child labour is an issue and working together to create a better and safer future is the first step in overcoming it.


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