There was a function organised on the
day to lay emphasis on ways and means to eradicate child labour. Ironically, tea was being served by Ramu, a tea boy.
Ramu works at a tea stall where he washes cups and plates and serves tea. One day the tea stall owner asked him not to come for three days, as a team of Inspectors was to visit around the city to check whether any child has been employed.
The ingenious Ramu suggested a way out, “Sir, I’ll become a customer at that time and if asked, I’ll confirm too.”
“But you used to say that you don’t lie!”
“Yes sir, but should I listen to my heart or the belly?”
Ramu is a poor child, who doesn’t know what is childhood, as he has been directly migrated to adulthood. And he is not alone. According to the National Census, 2011, there were over 33 million children engaged as child labour in India in the age group of 6 to 18 years, and 80% of them were in rural areas.
Today is the world day against child labour that was launched by International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2002 and is observed now every year in order to create awareness among people about the plight of children working as labourers. The theme for this year 2022 is “Universal social protection to end child labour”.
The Government of India (GOI) has promulgated Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 and its Amendment Act, 2016 prohibiting employment of children in hazardous occupations and processes apart from ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC).
GOI has also initiated the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme in 1988 to identify and rehabilitate working children by putting them into special schools with mid-day meals, health-care and a nominal stipend.
Despite these welfare measures, legislations and overall awareness, the child labour is still going on unabated. Why? One is poverty and the other is lack of will power.
For a poor man, his children add more hands to earn income for the family, and he himself pushes them towards child labour. For him, the priority is the hunger, and only a hungry person knows what the hunger pangs are.
Besides awareness and more stringent laws, measures should be taken for income generation in the source areas, for which skill development and employment programmes need to be launched and implemented religiously.
No doubt, rehabilitation and employment generation measures have been taken. NGOs like CRY (Child Rights and You), Save the Children, SOS Children Villages, Childline India, Nanhi Kali etc are also working, but a coordinated and multi-pronged push is required.
For each and every thing, we can’t hold the government of the day responsible. We are also responsible. We discuss it in our drawing rooms and offices, but turn a blind eye when we see a child working. Paying lip service does no good. Let’s desist from taking domestic work that deprives a child of its childhood.
Let every children cherish and enjoy their innocent childhood. Let’s smile back at them to make and strengthen their belief that this world is a good place to live. I conclude with a quote by Nobel laureate, Sri Rabindranath Tagore:
“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.”