Recently a friend of mine made post on facebook. She was looking for an organisation or helpline she could report a violation of anti child labour law to. The people who had come to install her newly purchased branded air conditioner were 2 little boys of school going age.
The air conditioner was purchased at a branded store at an up market mall of repute. Yet when the store was called to report the violation my friend was told that "They will be able to do the job. Worry not. As for the child labour part, we no control over this as service contracts are outsourced."
I am no going to name the particular brand or store because that is not relavant to this article. I mention this anecdote because it got me thinking about child labour and prompted me to do some research about child labour in India. I wanted to share some of my findings with you.
Please comment with your thoughts.
Many of us may not have even noticed that children had come to do the installation and even if we had we probably would have shrugged our shoulders and said well that's just how it is (me included).
Also, it is unlikely this is the only brand or store that takes this attitude. Probably many others do. As far as child labour goes this particular anecdote is no where near the worst children face.
Some children work long hours at manufacturing fireworks, silk, carpet weaving and even coal mining.
Children are a particularly vulnerable section of society and cannot be expected to protect themselves. That makes it harder to implement child labour laws. Children can be coaxed, brainwashed, intimidated or bullied in to working under conditions that are to their own detriment. Many of them have no idea how harmful the conditions they work under are or that there are laws that are supposed to protect them. They may even fear their law breaking employers enough to lie to protect them.
On the bright side: As per the 2011 census data there are approx 43.5 lakh children between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in child labour.This is a significant improvement from the number being 1.26 Crores in 1998.
There is some concern that the recent amendments to child labour law allowing children under 14 to work in family enterprises will be misused
. It is hard to establish the familial relationships of the children
and the children can be brainwashed or intimidated in to lying to officials. The new amendment specifically allows for farm work but according to this article
children required to juggle farm work and school end up missing school, find it hard to catch up and sometimes give up on school.
A necessary evil?
According to this article
parents of most child labourers are unemployed or under employed. Child labour is preffered because it is cheap and easy to exploit. In the long run child labour reduces the earning potential of the children in question. By depriving children of primary education and literacy, it significantly reduces their ability to earn and perpetuates poverty rather than alleviates it.
It is your money:
Do remember you already pay the government to take care of children's education via the Education CESS tax. It is their job to make sure that children are taken care of. There are laws requiring compulsory and free education for children
of ages 6 to 14. So educating children should not be a financial burden on any family.
What you can do?
If you notice violations of child labour laws among cleaning staff employed by your housing society make a complaint to the society committee. When you employ domestic staff check to see that they are old enough to work. If children come to do installations for products you have bought, you can contact law enforcement or organisations that rescue children
. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, may be you can just mention school, education and their rights to the kids. May be give them a book the would find interesting. Probably it will do nothing, but then again, on occasion, it may make a difference. Many of you probably have toys your children have outgrown, and they are just cluttering up your house. You can give these toys to an excellent organisation called toybank
that works to give street children back their childhood.
Don't care about the children. What about the economy?
According to this wikipedia article
child labour is a serious issue in terms of economic welfare. Long working hours makes children more prone to disease. Many child labourers work in hazardous working conditions. Today's children are tomorrow's human capital. Keeping them uneducated and exposing them to unhealthy and sometimes hazardous working conditions diminishes the future growth potential of the economy. An educated work force is a vital part of a prospering economy and child labour is detrimental to that.