Strategies for Eradication of Child Labour in India
Child labour is one of the serious hurdles on the path of human development in India. The majority of child labourers in India work in industries such as cracker manufacturing, diamond polishing, carpet weaving, brassware industry, glass and bangle making, and mica cutting. The employers exploit child workers by forcing them to work in sub-human conditions with long working hours and extremely low pay.
Ever since independence, the government of India has taken several measures to eradicate the menace of child labour. There have been specific legislations aimed at curbing the problem, and punishing the offenders. Also, several social programs for the rehabilitation for children who are rescued from child labour are run at the central and state level. In recent years, there has been a major emphasis on providing basic education for all children, which is a long-term answer to this social menace.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986
Article 24 of the Indian constitution clearly states that, "No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or employed in any hazardous employment." The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 designates a child as a person who has not completed their 14th year of age. It aims to regulate the hours and the working conditions of child workers and to prohibit child workers in hazardous industries. (1)
Right to Education Bill
In 2009, the government of India made a move of far-reaching consequences by introducing the Right to Education Bill. The Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) has estimated that the implementation of this Act will require large amounts of funds to the tune of Rs. 1.74 lakh crore. The proposed National Education Finance Corporation (NEFC) is expected to fund school education and the government and local bodies will develop the necessary infrastructure for upholding the true spirit of this Act. The implementation of this Act at the grassroots level is a key to the eradication of the problem of child labour that has plagued India for centuries. (2)
Rehabilitation of Children Working in Hazardous Occupations
On August 15, 1994, the government of India launched a major program to remove child labour working in hazardous occupations, and to rehabilitate them by setting up special schools for them. Under the program a total of two million children are sought to be brought out of work and put in special schools where they are provided with education, vocational training, monthly stipends, nutrition and health-checks.
Establishment of National Authority for the Elimination of Child Labour (NAECL)
A highly powerful body, the National Authority for the Elimination of Child Labour (NAECL) was established on September 26, 1994, headed by the Union Minister of Labour in the government of India. The key functions of NAECL include the following:
- Laying down the policies and programs for the elimination of child labour, especially in the hazardous industries.
- Monitoring the progress and grassroots level implementation of programs, projects and schemes for the elimination of child labour.
- Coordinating various child labour related projects among different government departments and ministries. (3)
National Child Labour Project (NCLP)
In 1988, the government of India launched the National Child Labour Project (NCLP). Initially, the scheme was implemented in nine districts with a high concentration of child labour. The scheme involves establishment of special schools for child labour who are withdrawn from work. These special schools provide formal and informal education along with vocational training, and also provide a monthly stipend. Other facilities such as supplementary nutrition and health care are also provided to such children. The number of districts covered under the NCLP Scheme were increased to 100 in the ninth 5-year plan and further increased to 250 in the tenth plan. (4)
There are credible efforts being made at the administrative level to eliminate the problem of child labour. Also, there are several voluntary organizations working for the rescue and rehabilitation of child labour in India. Education for all children is the key that can bring about a fundamental change and help to end the problem permanently. A collective public and governmental effort on various fronts will eventually lead to the complete eradication of child labour menace from India.
- Vikas Vij (views expressed in the article are that of the author)
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