How to deal with menace of child labour?

Special on World Day against Child Labor – 12 June, 2024

Lalit Garg

Child labour is a burning issue all over the world, what an irony that our society, government and politicians do not get tired of repeating that children are the future of the country, but do nothing to corroborate with their actions. It appears like a well-planned conspiracy to snatch away the childhood from children, and the right to education from about 25 to 30 crore children through the menace of child labour? Nobody would have imagined that their childhood experience would become so scary and horrifying. After all, what is the reason that childhood is going into the blind alleys of crime and child labour? Why is childhood being so neglected? Not only the parents, but society and government have also become bloody careless towards childhood? These questions are shaking us, while celebrating the World Day against Child Labor. Every year 12 June is celebrated as the World Day against Child Labor all over the world. The initiative to celebrate this day was taken up by the International Labor Organization, whose aim was to stop child labour. The official theme of World Day Against Child Labor 2024 is- ‘Let’s act on our commitments-End Child Labor!’ This day presents an important opportunity to raise awareness, advocate for change and contribute towards a future free from child labour.

It is a well known fact that the special reason behind celebrating this day was to motivate children towards schools for education. The child labour is continuously becoming a serious problem world over, due to which the childhood of children is going down the drain, and they are not able to get their fundamental rights. Their childhood future is sinking down under the drugs, crime and other weird complications due to child labour. When we pass through any street, intersection, market, road or highway and see a 12-14 year old child at some shop, factory, restaurant or eatery, filling air in tyres, repairing punctures, blowing air into chimney with mouth or through a pipe, cleaning used utensils, lifting mortar or serving food and in case of even the slightest mistake, he is abused, pushed, beaten and mistreated by the owner or the customer, then we often go our way saying ‘what do we have to do with it’ or at the most asking the owner in hushed voices to show some mercy on that innocent child. But for how long will we allow childhood to be tortured and neglected in this manner?

This day is also celebrated to motivate individuals, NGOs and government organisations to take strict action against child labour, to eliminate it completely, and to improve this tragic and unfortunate situation. According to the United Nations, for the past two decades, continuous initiatives have been taken up to reduce child labour all over the world. However, during the past few years, conflicts, crises and the Corona epidemic have pushed many families in the world into poverty, due to which in a surge millions of children have been forced into child labour. Today’s child will become the creator of tomorrow’s society. The future society will definitely be like the moral inclination and interest of the child. Today, 160 million children in the world are still engaged in child labour. This is about one in ten children worldwide. Africa tops all regions in terms of child labour. About nine out of every ten children engaged in child labour worldwide are in Africa and Asia and the Pacific. The remaining child labour population is divided between the Americas (11 million), Europe and Central Asia (6 million) and the Arab States (1 million). While the percentage of children in child labour is highest in low-income countries, their number is actually higher in middle-income countries. Nine percent of children in low-middle income countries and 7 percent of children in upper-middle income countries are in child labour.

While much progress has been made in reducing child labour over the past few years, global trends have reversed in recent years; and now more than ever it is important to work together to accelerate action towards eliminating child labour in all forms. The Durban Call to Action adopted by delegates after the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in 2022 shows the way. Now is the time to make elimination of child labour a reality. It is known that the main cause of child labour is poverty, due to which children are forced to leave their studies and choose the path of labour. However, many children are forced into child labour by crime syndicates. Talking about India, according to government figures, no less than two crore– yet according to the International Labour Organization, about 5 crore children are child labourers. Of these child labourers, about 19 percent are domestic servants, in rural and unorganised sectors and about 80 percent are associated with the agricultural sector. In the remaining areas, the parents of the children sell them to such contractors for very little money that put them to work in hotels, brothels and other factories etc. as per their arrangements. Their employers give the children little food and make them do whatever they want. Working for 18 hours or more, eating half an empty stomach and getting beaten up if the work is not done as per their wish becomes their life.
Not only household work, these child labourers have to do all the work as per the wish of the owner like making crackers, weaving carpets, welding, making locks, working in brass industry, glass industry, diamond industry, matchsticks, bidis, working in fields (like bulls), working in coal mines, stone quarries, cement industry, medicine industry and washing utensils in hotels and dhabas. Apart from all these works, there are many works like picking garbage, picking dirty polythene bags etc. where these children do not live their childhood, suffer hell and feed the family. For their childhood, there are neither mother’s lullabies nor father’s love, neither toys, nor school nor Children’s Day. Their world is limited, so only work, work and work, gradually picking up half-burnt pieces of bidi and blowing smoke, considering sexual exploitation as a game becomes their destiny. How can we imagine a strong nation on these weak foundations? In the name of making children self-reliant since childhood, in reality we are pushing them into the dungeon of darkness by making them money-making machines. Organizations like Bachpan Bachao AndolanChild Fund, Care India, Talaash Association, Child Rights and Global March Against Child Labor have taken meaningful initiatives towards ending the child labour.

Child labour not only takes the future of children into darkness, the country is also not untouched by it because the children who work are miles away from education and when these children do not get education, how will they take over the reins of the country? In this way, a healthy child’s mind reaches the dark and narrow lane of deformity and he starts being counted in the category of child laborer and criminals. To prevent this from happening, it is necessary to melt the icy communication gap and sensitivity between parents and children. An environment full of affection, intimacy and trust should be created between them once again. The government should reconsider the laws related to children and make plans for the proper development of children; so that the fate and future of the leaders of this deteriorating childhood and wandering nation can be bright.

The author is a Writer, Journalist, Columnist

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