CHILD LABOR IN INDIA: MAGNITUDE, CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES
Child labor is a universal phenomenon. From time immemorial child labor has always existed under different names. Poverty, unemployment, under-employment, lack of social protection, large family, illiteracy and ignorance bad habits of a family's bread earners, child as cheap labor, absence of compulsory schooling illness, disablement of death of wage earner in the family are some of the causes and compulsions of child labor in India and in many other countries of the world. The term 'child labor' is, at times, used as a synonym for employing child or working child. The children, who are engaged in the employment at the age of 14 years of below the age of 14, deprived them the opportunities of development, are called child labor. Generally there are two kinds of child labor% traditionally to assist in work done by their parents and works done by the children outside the family for kind or cash remuneration to raise the income of the family. According to V.V. Giri, "the term child labor is commonly interpreted in two different ways: First, as an economic practice and secondly, as a social evil".
According to ILO (1983), "Child labor includes children prematurely leading adulteries, working long hours for low wages under condition damaging to their health and to their physical and mental development, sometimes separated from their families frequently deprived of meaningful education and training opportunities that would open up for them a better future." Hence, child labor is any work within or outside the purview of the family that threatens the health and mental development of the child by denying him or her fundamental as well as non-fundamental rights.
Magnitude of the Problem of child Labor
The problem of child labor in India is of immense magnitude when one considers the number of children involved. According to the 1971 census, there were 10.74 million children working, representing 4.66 per cent of total population and 5.95 per cent of the total labor force. According to the 1981 census, workers in the age group below 14 years of age (excluding Assam) were 13.59 million. On the basis of the Nature Sample survey (32 and Round) the number of child workers as on 1st march, 1983 was 17.36 million. The working children mainly belong to the age group 5-14 years. Nearly 93 per cent of the total child labor force works in the rural areas and the rest in urban areas. A great majority of these children work in agriculture and the unorganized sector like small commercial establishment and shops are quasi-family undertakings. 79 per cent are employed as cultivators or agricultural laborers, 8 per cent in live stock, forestry, plantation, etc. 6 percent household and other services, the rest in trade, commerce and transport.
Child labor issues have generated considerable attention during last one decade from government. non- governmental agencies and social workers. Each of them has elucidated their own views and subsequently formulated action programmes. However, the main actions; parents and working children have been excluded from the wwhole debate. Unless the parents and working children are involved, the success of the programmes for elimination of child labor may not yield the desired results.
Various surveys conducted by the labor bureau reveal that children are employed to do light job, such as helping in the field, inf factories for packing, pasting of labels, etc, and in match factories, tea factories, tea estates, bidi manufacturing, printing, publishing, etc. Unorganized sector employs a large number of children as domestic servants, works in hotels, restaurant, canteens, wayside shops, newspaper selling, coolies, shoe-shines boys, vendors, etc. Though Indian low does not prohibit the employment of children in cottage industries, family households, restaurants, or in agriculture yet it is quite evident that the working conditions of the children in these small organizations is far inferior to those of large factories.
In essence, the government's approach continues to be oriented focusing on ameliorating the working conditions, of the employed. At the best government's approach appears to eliminate child labor is the hazardous industries, which incidentally do not include family or household enterprises. The enactment of the child labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, has at best emphasized on regulation rather than prohibition of child labor. Similarly the Nature Policy on Education 1986 announced non-formal education for working boys and girls as a major thrust area. This constituted an expression of helplessness in the matter of confronting the issue of child labors and additionally gave legitimacy to the employment of children.
It also force closed any further discussion on the issue of abolition of child labor and the provisions of compulsory education for some time to come. The only apology offered with respect to child labor was accepting its existence as a "harsh reality". The exploitation of child labor was thus not addressed instead more ambiguous policies of Non-Formal Education (NFE) were designed to reach working children. Officials and employers argue that children serve as apprentices, acquiring needed skills for adult employment. They contribute to the income of their families. They agree the small contribution of child's income or assistance at home allows the parents to work and this makes the difference between hunger and a bare sufficiency.
Children's work is considered essential to maintain economic levels of the household. They further argue that the employment of children sustains India's traditional craft industries and makes exports competitive. In the long list of dubious distinctions India is famous for child labor. The wholesale and unchecked exploitation of children of less than 14 years is a punishable crime and the Indian Low.
But a selfish and immoral political leadership, corrupt bureaucracy, rampant poverty, growing unemployment and a society bereft of valued have all conspired to turn India into the "largest concentration child labor in the world". In India every third child is working child and every fourth child in the age group five to fifteen is employed. An estimate by the ILO puts the number of child workers in India at 44 million. But an unofficial survey estimates the number of working children at around 100 million. While 21 per cent of the child workers are urban based, the rest are rural based.
There is hardly and product in India that has no child labor behind it. Lock, carpet, bangle, brick, match box, cracker, wood carringor any other product has the invisible stamp of the tail put in by children caught in the web of poverty and an exploitative social system. Indeed child labor in India comes cheap and easy.
The government officials and manufacturers argue that expansion in export especially gems, brassware and carpets is made possible through the employment of children Competition from neighboring countries in these exports is used as a major Natureist's argument.
Exports become a matter of patriotism the human and social costs do not matter. The 'Myth of nimble fingers' is also put forward for the continuation of children in handicraft activities. Captains of industry argue that children can produce a greater number of knots in the weaving of carpets. They can carry molten near furnaces, under condition that adult would find intolerable. They can work better in polishing gems, tasks that need diligence, dexterity and speed. Without child labor it is agreed, carpets and handloom textiles might be replaced by machine made products.
This would lead to more poverty. With these arguments government have accepted the continuation of child labor on economic compulsions and accepted it as a "harsh reality." This tendency to regard the issue as a matter of social justice, i.e., the children of the poor be allowed to work or declaring the problem as a harsh reality" and a necessary evil in any underdeveloped economy" are points to the lack of concerted efforts to eradicate the menace of child labor. As a result the issue of eradication of child labor got clouded in an omnibus category of labor lows. It is essential to have a comprehensive change in mind-set, when viewing the problem associated with child labor. This basic approach of the government does not deal with the root of the problem i.e. compulsory primary education and exploitation of poverty. Hopefully the 83 amendment of the constitution declaring education as a fundamental right will be adopted soon to approach the problem of child labor effectively. As long as child is seen as an economic problem, there will be arguments supporting it and as a result, a lack of conviction on the part of policy makers and society to eradicate it. Child labor must be seen as less of phenomenon of poverty and more of social attitudes, exploitation, compulsions and sensibilities. This is evident from the experiences of developed countries as well as some developing countries as well as some developing countries that tackled this problem much before the economic advancement. Research conducted by the social scientists did not support the argument put forward by officials and manufacturers.
The social worker like Swami Agnivesh and Kailash Satyarthi have in fact argued that child labor perpetuates poverty rather that reduces it. They argued that child servitude is equally, if not solely, responsible for causing and perpetuating adult unemployment, poverty, population growth and mass illiteracy. They argue those socio-cultural factors, including abominable caste system, ethnic and gender discrimination, nexus between politicians and manufacturers, absence of compulsory primary education and profit motivating concerns are responsible for the perpetuating of the scourge of child labor. Experience from several countries show that merely belonging to a low income country is not reason enough to be condoned for the use of child labor. Historical comparisons with Shri Lanka, Vietna, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, Burma, Kenya and China shows that even in developing countries, the principles of compulsory education (whether sponsored by statue or a religious or a social group ) can be successfully adopted, with corresponding decrease in child labor may not be necessary. Instead the political will and strong commitment of the society to abolish the child labor can initiate the process of eradicating child labor. ILO has observed.
- With the family: In which children are engaged without pay in domestic/households, tasks, agricultural, pastoral works, handicrafts/ cottage industries etc.
- With the family but outside the home: In which children do agricultural/pastoral work which consist of (several full-time) migrant labor, local agricultural work, domestic services, construction work and informal occupation e.g. Laundry/recycling of waste-employed by other and self-employed .
- Outside the Family : In which children are employed by others in bonded works, apprenticeships, skilled trades (carpet, embroidery, brasses, copper work) industrial unskilled occupations/mines, domestic work, commercial work in shops and restaurants, begging, prostitutions and pornography.
Present problem of child Labor in India
The fact is that most of the activities where children are employed do not come under the purview of the Factories Act, for various reasons and hence are outside the preview of such restrictive legislation. But even with the new lows it has been a difficult exercise to contain the employment of the children for the sheer lack of popular will to prevent the oppression of the child workers in our society. Most of them are employed in the unorganized sector and in places difficult to reach. This is so because society still finds not voice to articulate the rights of the citizen and also their duties. And in caste based occupational pattern, it has been to the advantage of capital to consistently utilize the benefit of the carpet weavers or the glass makers or the large, abundant, surplus, pauperized agrarian landless in their ventures. To evade rules they have resorted to methods, such as, putting out to the households and other difficult to trace methods of organizing home based production.
The problem also stems from the fact that the state is not operating on the role of welfare work for its citizenry, by providing its future generation with basic necessities to become a potential high skilled work force in the course of such training and education. Besides this, the fact that the child worker come from families that do not have much to say in the kind of life they provide to their offspring, owing to their fragile economic and social status adds to the vulnerability a large number of the poor living below the poverty line, making up for their much required budgeting of subsistence lives by employing the young ones in some unorganized and casual work. Besides the lack of will on the part of the state, it was found in the course of our engagement with labor rights, that labor officer in one of the industrial townships was housed in the landing of a building. In such circumstances what can we hoe from the enforcing agencies of the state who themselves are in such a power-less situation today? At the same time we are not saying they did things when they had the power and the resources to do so. This is an era of social change. Social activists and social reformers are directing their attention towards mankind in the context of development and progress. The many evils that plague society is being questioned and reformation are being sought. Today the issue of child labor is gaining importance.
Frankly admitting, the problem of child labor manifests itself on two different forms. Firstly, the child labor is used without any remuneration and secondly, it is paid mere subsistence wage. The children who work without wages are mainly those engaged in family enterprises besides those engaged in family farms and other family enterprises besides those who have been handed over to the unscrupulous exploiters in discharge of and obligation and those who had been separated from their parents owing to object poverty and destitution. The child workers have to work for 12-16 hours a day. All the reporters on child labor also indicated that the wages paid to the children are exploitatively low. As the child workers are paid extremely low wages it results in malnutrition on the one hand and hard physical labor on the other which subjects the child workers to constant detonation in the terms of health the shortens his life span in the long-run. Exploitatively low wages compel him to resort to social evils such as stealing, snatching and pick pocketing. However, today, the incidence of child labor has posed a serious threat to the world particularly to the nation. It has become a major perennial social evil of our country and no suitable remedy has been traced out so far to curb the menace. No doubt child labor is legally prohibited but in reality it is to see an occupation whose children are not employed.
Child Labour In Rajasthan
The Rajasthan state is one of the pioneer states which have announced that a person below 18 years will be considered as a child labourer if he or she is employed. Rajasthan accounts for nearly 10% of the total child labour in the country with Jaipur alone having more than 50,000 child labourers in the age group of 5-14 years. The state stands third after UP and Andhra Pradesh as far as child labourers are concerned. According to a report, “Children in India-2012” released by Union ministry of statistics and programme implementation, there has been considerable increase in the number of child labourers in the state of Rajasthan “The situation is quite alarming. If you count the total figures for the state, it will stand at around 13 lakh”. However the annual health survey of 2010-11 in the work status category mentions that Rajasthan constitutes 5% of work force in the age group of 5-14 years.The worst performing among all is Jhunjhunu district with 10.8 %. Interestingly, a large number of children working in Rajasthan are brought from Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. In western Rajasthan most of the children are forced into salt industry while in Rajasthan they are engaged in farming BT cotton.
The worst situation is in the district of Alwar and Bharatpur where children are forced to work in cracker industry. Where the risk are too high . The prime industries where children are employed are in manufacturing of bangles, embroidery and weaving of carpets. These children are then pressed to work for 14 to 16 hours a day on meager salary of Rs. 800 to Rs. 2000 per month. Recently, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) too detected large scale child labor at brick kilns in Bhilwara. It says a large number of children below 18 years are working in occupation such as gem polishing, ‘Aari-Tari’, carpet manufacturing, begging, bidi industry, mines, agriculture, tea kiosk, dhabas. Besides the local children a large number of child laborers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi and West Bengal are working under difficult circumstances in Rajasthan.
Causes of Child Labor in India
The phenomenon of child labor is age old in India. Children are subjected to various forms of exploitation and child labor is one of such forms. It seems rational to sent children to work to augment family income in economic stricken societies but it is at the cost of their physical, intellectual and emotional development. Prof. Gangrade believes that child labor is a product of such factor as customs, traditional attitude, lack of school or reluctance of parents to send their children to school, Urbanization, industrialization, migration and so on. Thus, though there are many causes of child labor, it will be fruitful to study some of the principal ones in detail.
The issue of poverty is very relative and subjective concept. Though, it is not sufficient condition for the phenomenon of child in India yet, quite essential in its essence on analyzing the issue. In other words the association between child labor and the poverty in any given space and time is highly significant. But it has still remained as cognition at an empirical, isolated and sectorial level. For instance in our country among 252-300 million people are in a condition of near starvation which has intrinsic relation with land and other productive assets of families involved in child labor .
- Large Family Size A family, which is large in size with less income, can't live happy life. As a result, the members in the family can't have facilities of better education, recreation, health care and opportunities to be developed in healthy family atmosphere. On the other side, a family, which is limited in size and is well planned assures all possible development opportunities to its member and help them to protect themselves from insecurities of life.
- Child Labor a Cheap Commodity
With the advent of industrialization, the tendency among the employers is to have quick and more profit at low costs. Hence, in every country there was an enrolment of children in a large number of factories, who were paid very low wages, were subjected to excessive hours of work, and were made to work in terrible conditions. Child labor exists not because children are more capable workers but because they can be hired for less money. Thus, the preference for child labor by many employers is mainly due to the fact that it is cheap, safe and without any problem.
- Compulsory Education Education plays a catalytic role in socio-economic development of the economy. To quote V.V. Giri, "Education is the principal tool of socio-economic development and unless all societies are provided with right type of education, adequate in quality and quantity, it will not be possible to tackle satisfactorily the problem of ignorance of health and poverty which afflicts the majority of human beings in the world. Education is needed in all these areas to cope with and repair the destruction already introduced. It is also necessary for the economic modernization of the society.
- Non-Existence of provisions for Compulsory Education
Non existence of provision for compulsory education in our country is naother important cause of child labor. The child labor and non-schooling of children have a vital linkage among the poorer sections of the population. The provision of compulsory education up to a prescribed age would compel the children to attend school, leaving hardly any scope for their employment by the self-styled benevolent master.
- IIIiteracy and Ignorance of parents
In India, the lower socio-economic groups like the scheduled casts and scheduled tribes are illiterate. The majority of them think only about the present, which is their sole concern and worry. They never try to think of the future. They ignore the fact that child labor deprives the children of all the educational opportunities and minimize their chance for vocational training. It also affects their health and they are converted into laborers of low wages for their entire life.
Backwardness is historically specific phenomenon associated with the development of capitalism in the west and its relation of expropriations of the third world like India. Such situation is largely the product of colonial and imperial domination of over four centuries which have endangered the survival of the large masses of the people . Expansion of colonialism and imperialism with technological and financial dependence along with the destruction indigenous knowledge, culture, etc, compounded the misery of masses.
Bondage is another dimension, which is a product of such object poverty. Pertinent to mention that almost 70 per cent of the total child labor force in rural areas and urban unorganized sector are put under diverse form of bondage by their own parents and guardians.
- Culture and Tradition
The peculiar restrictive tradition particularly on learning is another dimension for the growth of child labor. Historically learning outside home has remained more or less confined to the privileged members of upper castes whereas children of the producing classes have learned the necessary skill from their parents for their respective hereditary occupations. Education had little relevance for their survival and development.
Since independence not only the population below the poverty line has been increasing at a faster rate but also unemployment is showing an unprecedented rate of growth. Leaving alone the disguised unemployment and underemployment the registered unemployed has increased from two million in 1966 to twenty four million today. Of these who are employed (268 million) only 9 per cent are working in the organized sector. The capacity of organized sector to absorb labors has in fact been steadily declining. On the other hand the informal unorganized sector is relatively expanding and that to in advanced regions. A significant part of the labor in this insecure informal market if either contractual or bonded, and most of the workers belong to the backward regions and lower castes and classes.
- Absence of scheme for family allowance
In India, there is a conspicuous absence of schemes for family allowance, so that people may have an adequate standard of living and may not be forced to send their children to the labor market. These schemes come under the social security measures which are in practice in many developed countries. Another direct cause of child labor, which is as causative as poverty, is the unfavorable condition at home. There may be tension and uncertainty, provoked or increased by poverty; the father may have left home; the mother may be alone; the father or mother or both may have fallen ill or become physically unfit to work or may have died. In such families these contingencies upset the delicate balance of the family budget, leaving the family with no alternative but to send the children to work. These starving families would prefer bare bread in hand today rather than go without it in the hope of buttered bread in distinct future.
- Migration to Urban Areas
Further, some studies have found migration to cities, due to industrialization and urbanization, also to be one of the factors responsible for the problems of child labor. The Delhi Study shows that there are a substantial number of migrants among child workers, particularly in the field of domestic services they also work in tea-stalls and 'dhabas'.
A large number of domestic servants belong to Almora and Garhwal district of Utranchal while most of those working in tea-stalls and 'dhabas' and also those hawking. Evening newspapers had migrated from Azamgarh, Basti; Gorakhpur, and Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh and, to some extent, form Bihar. The rage-picker's were partly local and partly from West Bengal. The shoe-shine boys mostly hailed from Agra, Jhansi and Shajahanpur districts of Uttar Pradesh. It is not just a coincidence that the migrant child workers invariably belonged to the relatively poor and backward regions of the country, and not the economically developed areas such as West Bengal, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.