Opinion

Where is the Future of Children Heading?

Children are in no doubt the purest form of our human species away from the greed of money, corruption, pain, suffering, responsibility, and dishonesty because their pure minds find it hard to comprehend such complex concepts. They just want nurturing and love, they hardly ask for anything else. The children of today will grow up to be the leaders of our world tomorrow, it's not just an emotional thought provoking statement, but the actual growth of our country's economy literally depends on how the kids of today will choose to run the country when they grow up. Every child deserves basic education and nurturing, their childhood is supposed to be protected but instead, a vast population of children's childhood is snatched away from them in terms of child labour, a problem that arises mainly out of poverty and a few other key factors.

Child labour is no new phenomenon, it's widely spread on a global level, but here are a few numbers to understand how big this problem actually is.

According to the National Census 2011, there are approximately 10.1 million child labourers in India. That's more than 1 crore children belonging to the age group of 5-14 years working, and a lot of them have to work under the worst conditions possible. 1 in every 11 children in India is working. This problem is majorly present in rural areas; these kids don't even get the basic education they deserve and some of them can't even write their names properly.

In India, the issue of child labour is a ferocious one. Not only children are forced to work for very little to no money, in rural areas children have been helping their parents from ages in primitive activities such as agriculture and farming. Another form of children exploitation is bonded labourers, where children have to work to pay the debts which their parents failed to repay, or even their grandparents in some cases due to the outrageous interest rates. This is one of the most uncivilized forms of exploitation and is completely comparable to the abhor concept of slavery; bonded labourers is nothing less than a modern form of slavery. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there, because then there's urban child labour; these kids mostly spend their lives on the streets of these big corporate cities of India.

A lot of measures have been taken by the government so far to eradicate this malign issue of child labourers, but it still hasn't been as effective as it should be. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986, was the first act that prohibited children below the age of 14 working under a specific list of occupations identified by the law. The list was then expanded in 2006 and then in 2008.  Overpopulation, illiteracy, poverty can be a few major reasons which result in child labourers and are co-dependent on each other in one way or another. Another reason which I've already mentioned is the debt; these debt-trapped, overburdened parents which fail to repay their debts, which automatically their future child is responsible to pay, unfortunately leading to the child's exploitation.

CHILD LABOUR LAWS IN INDIA -

 A set of laws have been made, regulated and evolved over a long period to control and eradicate the problem of child labour once and for all. A few laws are mentioned below -

The Factories Act of 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on who, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15–18 years be employed in any factory. 

The Mines Act of 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine. Mining being one of the most dangerous occuptions, which in the past has led to many major accidents taking life of children is completely banned for them.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, and again in 2008.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or in bondage. This act provides punishment to those who act in contravention to the previous acts by employing children to work.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 percent of seats in every private school must be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children.

Undeterred by all these laws, the filthy problem of child labour still hasn't seen an end, and the flawed and ambiguous laws are to be blamed. The laws aren't very transparent on where the children are supposed to work and where they aren't; the acts and laws aren't even applicable to the unorganized sector. Although the acts prohibit the employment of children in certain hazardous industries and processes, it does not define what constitutes hazardous work. It only provides a list of hazardous occupations.

We need to understand that the victimization and oppression of these children is nothing less than a slap in the face of humanity and basic human rights. A child deserves a childhood at the very least, where the child gets to explore what it can be as a person who's growing up, instead their whole life is snatched away from them, including their free will and most importantly their innocence.