Child Labour in India – A Theft of Innocence
A simple walk or drive around many of India’s bustling metropolises will reveal a horrible truth hiding in plain sight – labouring youths.
Although it almost seems commonplace, child labour is at the epicentre of an earth-shattering socio-economic dispute that is seriously endangering our society’s future. Not only are millions of innocent youths being forced into slavery and untold hardships, but the cost of keeping up this barbaric practice is echoing in our daily lives and in the economy. The employment of children is undoubtedly wrong and there are no reasons as to why it should continue. That’s why it is so shocking when the ILO (International Labour Organization) cites that there are 168 million children around the world being forced to work.
Really? What do the statistics say?
It’s true. A report by the Ministry of Labour states that in India alone, there are almost 5 million children working below the legal age of 14. That sounds like a lot, but a recent sample survey conducted by the Educational Consultancy body of India estimates that over 6 million children are not even enrolled in schools. As you might have guessed, it is this unfortunate lot that is the prime target for child labour.
A large number of them can be found slogging away in extremely hazardous environments – coal mines, firework factories, road-making, etc. But the majority are toiling day and night to supply India’s vast agricultural needs. For the young girls forming part of that vast contingent, sexual slavery can very easily become a sequel to their trauma.
They clean the tables at the dhabas we visit. They weave the sarees we buy our daughters. They are even hired to help clean our houses. They’re present in almost every walk of our daily lives and yet none of us would ever allow our children to work as the brick-layers, cooks, construction workers and miners that we allow these children to be!
But why would anyone force a kid to work?
Honestly? It’s because in slum and rural areas, going to school is expensive and barely beneficial in the short-term. They find it more economical to ply their children to some work and bring in those much needed cents. Also, with the large amount of labour laws implemented to fight for labour rights, it is simply much easier and cheaper to employ children.
The sheer difficulty in regulating this coercion of children into employment much before the legal working age is a lot to blame as well. Despite the government having outlawed it, the manpower and resources required to inspect each and every household to eliminate child abuse is beyond fathom.
Who makes these kids work?
While multi-nationals are (correctly) accused of employing children, they’re not the worst transgressors. No. We are. Over 70% of the children working in this country are in the farming industry. The other 30%? They clean the tables at the dhabas we visit. They weave the sarees we buy our daughters. They are even hired to help clean our houses. They’re present in almost every walk of our daily lives and yet none of us would ever allow our children to work as the brick-layers, cooks, construction workers and miners that we allow these children to be!
Financial Costs of Child Labour
Even at an economical level, the world is feeling the bite of carrying out this atrocity of child labour.
The ILO estimates that it would take a colossal $760 billion over 20-years to end the global enslavement (because that’s exactly what it is) of children. That’s like launching 10,000 missions to mars. In fact, you could afford to purchase Tata Consultancy Services 6 times over. Costly, right?
The estimated gains from providing health and education to this unfortunate lot can alone would bring in $4 trillion. That kind of money could pay back all of India’s national debt 3 times over AND free millions of children around the world.
Is there any way I can help stop child labour?
Thankfully, there is.
The law does protect minors. There are 5 legislative acts dedicated to the prohibition of child labour – the latest having been signed in 2009.
There are numerous NGOs (Prathram, CARE, RIDE India) out there that desperately need your help to end this awful practice. All you have to do is go online as you do every day (albeit for Facebook, Youtube and ArmchairLounge) and actually try to call someone who can help you stop this practice. Every time we look on and do nothing, we are being complicit in the crime. And we shouldn’t even trick ourselves into thinking that it isn’t our problem. It is.
Because every time another child’s innocence is stolen, so is yours.
The article uses the indicated report from the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India to cite the statistics: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_decl_fs_49_en.pdf
He’s also a die-hard Chelsea FC fan whose interests range from dancing and music to complex philosophical paradigms involving time-travel and literally anything that gets him thinking.