On World Day Against Child Labour, no dearth of child labourers to rescue

This month alone over 600 children have been rescued from 'employment' across various Indian states this month alone. But 1 in 10 minors worldwide is a child labourer

Renowned sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik with his sculpture on World Day Against Child Labour, in Puri, on 12 June 2020. (photo courtesy: PTI)
Renowned sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik with his sculpture on World Day Against Child Labour, in Puri, on 12 June 2020. (photo courtesy: PTI)

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

Ahead of World Day Against Child Labour, observed annually on June 12, several state governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in India have rescued several children engaged in child labour and begging.

In Andhra Pradesh, 315 child labourers working in hazardous conditions were rescued as part of the ongoing drive against child labour, Joint Task Force teams employed within the state said on Sunday, June 11.

The Labour Department in Andhra Pradesh constituted around 50 teams headed by the respective district collectors, comprising labour, health, education officials as well as anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) and NGOs Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), founded by Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, and Child Rights Advocacy Foundation (CRAF). The month-long drive began on June 1.

"We have conducted raids on mechanic sheds, spinning mills, brick kilns, hotels, restaurants, shops, factories, aqua processing and packing units, construction sites and industries and rescued the children. Cases have been registered against the employers of the children under A.P. Shops and Establishments Act, 1988, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and the Minimum Wages Act, 1948," labour commissioner M.V. Seshagiri Babu told The Hindu.

Similarly on Sunday, the Gujarat government said that as many as 155 child labourers were rescued within the state in the year 2022, over 1,200 raids were conducted and action is currently being taken against the employers.

Satyarthi's organisation, BBA, was closely involved with the operation in Gujarat. Representatives said that it received a tip on its complaint cell about the child labourers working on the campus of the RK University in Rajkot. "Post-rescue, the children alleged that besides being made to work for such long hours, they were also subjected to physical and mental abuse by their managers," said the director of BBA, Manish Sharma.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Right (NCPCR) on Monday said that it has rescued 50 child labourers in Ludhiana, Punjab. "We are running a month-long campaign across India to liberate children from the clutches of child labour. The problem of child labour continues to pose a challenge before the nation. Government has been taking various pro-active measures to tackle this problem," NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo told Firstpost.

Six child labourers were rescued from hotels and garages in Madhya Pradesh's Indore on June 8. Three NGOs, Childline, Aas Organisation, and the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation along with the state labour department were involved in the raids. The rescued children informed the authorities that they were being made to work in hazardous conditions for 8–10 hours on a Rs 300 wage per day, reported the Free Press Journal.

The labour department in Noida rescued 25 child labourers and beggars with the help of Childline Noida and AHTUs on June 7.

Officials of the Juvenile Justice Board and the local police on Monday, June 12 rescued many children forced into begging in Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar district.

Child labour in India

In India, the engagement of children in unfavourable or hazardous employment conditions is regulated under the Child Labour (Prohibition And Regulation) Act of 1986.

The act completely prohibits and deems illegal the employment of children below the age of 14 in all occupations. It was amended in 2016 to enact provisions to prohibit employment of adolescents from 14 to 18 years of age in hazardous occupations and processes. The act implements strict punishment for the employers and enablers of child labour.

However, due to lack of awareness, access and transparency around child labour laws in India — millions of children hailing from low-income families are forced into child labour.

The last official census in India indicating the figures of child labour was conducted 12 years ago — in 2011 — which states that the total child population in India in the age group 5–14 years is 259.6 million, out of which 10.1 million (3.9 per cent of the total child population) are engaged in child labour.

160 million children are engaged in child labour globally

Child labour is defined as engaging children in exploitative work that deprives them of their childhood — leading to long-term and severe impact on their physical and mental well-being.

Initiated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2002, this day is marked by an emphasis on the worldwide movement against child labour. Underscoring the link between social justice and child labour, the theme for this year is 'Social Justice for All. End Child Labour!'.

"...child labour can be eliminated, if the root causes are addressed. More than ever, it is urgent for all of us to contribute to bringing solutions to people’s daily problems, and child labour is – possibly – the most visible of these problems," reads the UN statement.

As per latest United Nation figures, 160 million children are still engaged in child labour globally — which represents 1 in 10 children worldwide. Africa ranks the highest with 72 million children trapped in child labour; Asia and the Pacific regions rank second-highest with 62 million child labourers. 9 per cent of all children in lower- to middle-income countries, and 7 per cent of all children in upper- to middle-income countries, are engaged in child labour.

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