is Child Labour?
Report of the Director General of ILO,
Child labour includes children prematurely leading adult
lives, working long hours for low wages under conditions
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 could open up for them a better future.
It is said that officially there are 18 to
20 million children who are engaged as child labourers in
different vocation all over India. Unofficially, this figure
goes up to 45 million plus. Though these children are
expected to be in schools, They continue to be deprived of
the joys of childhood due to their being engaged at their
According to Article 45 of
the Constitution of India, the State is to provide free and
compulsory education for all children until they complete
the age of 14. In spite of the fact that this provision was
to be implemented within 10 years of the commencement of the
Constitution, nearly 50% children remained uneducated.
to Article 39E of the Constitution, the tender age of
children should not be abused and citizens should not be
forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to
their age and strength.
Article 39F mentions that children should
be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a
healthy manner in conditions of freedom and dignity. It also
maintains that childhood and youth should be protected
against exploitation and moral and material abandonment -
yet millions of children are forced to work in Industrial
and non-Industrial occupations. These children toil in rural
and urban areas at the cost of their childhood.
Their work involves labouring in hazardous
and non-hazardous environments in areas as diverse as
agriculture, plantations, mines, the slate industry, carpet
weaving, handlooms and power looms, zari work, hosiery,
match and fireworks factories, the glass industry, pottery,
the gemstone industry, making bidis, the lock industry, rag picking,
hotels, dhabas and tea stalls, construction, small scale
industry, garages, petrol pumps, domestic chores, shoe shining,
In West Bengal, the situation is no better
than in the rest of India. In many towns, one can see child rag pickers
very early in the morning or even at dusk, collecting bits
and pieces from garbage vats. Thousands of children are
engaged in performing domestic chores. A large number of
children work in agricultural fields and plantations.
Several thousands are engaged in bidi factories, roadside
dhabas, tea shops ad fast food centres.
Nearly 40% of the children do not receive
an education. Besides, there is a high school drop-out rate.
These children end up in various hazardous and non-hazardous
occupations with the added responsibility of managing
household chores. while their parents are out working Due to
the absence of a proper education and vocational training,
the future of these children is bleak. The possibility of
growth and development is limited and thus these children
cannot hope to progress beyond the level of a day labourer.
In the face of this dismal scenario, SLARTC
works for child labourers in 5 districts of West Bengal.
SLARTC runs 25 NFE centres in these 5 districts. In South 24
Parganas, one of our schools caters to the needs of children
who work in factories producing rubber slippers and one can
find their nimble fingers getting blackened and thicker
every time they cut a rubber strap for the slippers.
Yet these children are so eager to learn
and play that they rush to the NFE centres from their
workplaces so that they can read and write. They feel the
need to be literate and to discard the label of illiteracy.
They want to play but there is hardly any time. They
sometimes take a day off (without pay) to go to the Zoo of
to Science City with their teachers. Apart from seeing the
place, they run about, sing and play during the short
duration of this rare day away from work.
These children need their childhood back
today as tomorrow will be too late.