ndia’s child labourers – they don’t go to school

5 Nov

Mon, 29 Oct 2007.
Twelve million children aged between 5 and 14 work in various occupations including hazardous occupations

Florence Samuel, New Socialist Alternative (CWI India)CHINA WORKER

India is known for its rich variety in culture and also diversity in places and religions. Taj Mahal, Himalayas, Qutub Minar, Golden Temple, Kashmir& Khajuraho attract everyone’s admiration. In modern times India is making news for its unprecedented growth in the macro economy as well, it is also said that India is emerging as a knowledge society.

But is it enough to pat our own backs and feel contented when millions in this country go hungry everyday? Do we have the knowledge to understand the intractable problems faced by the vast majority of our population? Any objective viewer would certainly notice the evils of our society such as the discrimination of women, daliths & religious minorities. Above all the class-divide between the rich and the poor is so stark that it makes any conscious human being sit-up and think.

The children are the future…..!

Have you heard this oft repeated jargon somewhere?

India’s Government estimates (Census 2001) that over 12 million children aged between 5 and 14 continue to work in various occupations including many hazardous occupations. This includes about 1, 85,595 children who are estimated to be engaged in domestic work and roadside eateries.

Yes, child labour is a serious issue as serious as trafficking. The powers that be at the top claim that India is the largest democracy but the question is, is it being governed for the benefit of the majority? The rulers of this country irrespective of the ideology or the name of their party would like to showcase India @ 60 as a success story, but is it true?

Since independence the picture of India has been changing for the worse. Now-a-days you can find children from the age of 8-14 do such a laborious work that even the actual adult labourer would not have done. Instead of studying, playing and eating properly, they are working to get few rupees to their home. You can find children working in every possible area, for instance starting from household, garbage lifting, hotels, brick kilns , stone quarries and construction works, not only that you can see then very hard working, sitting under the scorching sun from 6 am – 8pm more than 8 hours of work.

The Child Labour Prevention Act which was amended on 10th of October 2006 banned children under 14 working as domestic servants and in dhabas, restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality sectors, making employing the above groups a punishable offence.

One year on, how far has the act been implemented by the national and state governments? The Central government had asked state governments to develop action plans to rescue and rehabilitate children who are working as child labourers. So far only three State governments have published these plans – Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and even today 74% of child domestic workers are under the age of 16.

Some of the recent findings of a study on Child Domestic work have been:

• 99% of child domestic workers in Delhi and 84% in Kolkata are girls.

• Most child domestic workers are young girls who come from poor families and are forced to work for up to 15 hours a day with no breaks and little or no pay.

• 68% of the children surveyed had faced physical abuse and 46.6% of the children had faced severe abuse that had led to injuries

• 32.2% have had their private parts touched by the abuser, 20% had been forced to have sexual intercourse

• 50% of children do not get any leave in a year, 37% never see their families

• 32% of families have no idea where their daughters are working, 27% admitted they know they were getting beaten and harassed.

• 78% of workers receive less than Rs. 500 per month.

• In Delhi, 49% earn 1000- 1500 in a month. 16.4% get less than that.

• 42.7% do not know or have not been given their present address.

• 35% are brought to Delhi by relatives, 2% through agents and 22% through known agents.

India retains the world record for the employment of child labour. Balai Data Bank of Manila puts the figure at 100 million. Asia Labour Monitor says every third household in India has working children and over 20% of India’s GNP is contributed by child workers.

Eight million children from scheduled-caste or scheduled-tribe families, some as young as 7 years, work as bonded labourers in the villages. These statistics give a graphic picture of the horrors of capitalism. Children suffer accidents and disease and become prematurely old.

More than 416,000 children under the age of 18, of whom almost 225,000 are younger than 14, are involved in child labour in India’s cottonseed production. Most of them are girls.

They work in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which account for nearly 92 per cent of the cottonseed production in the country.

A recent report titled ‘Child bondage continues in Indian cotton supply chain’ reveals that the total number of working children in cotton fields has risen over 2003-04.

According to the report, more than 13 Indian companies and two multinationals, Monsanto and Bayer, are involved in this modern form of child slavery.

Child Labour is a scourge – it must end!

Child labour has serious socio-economic effects. First, child labourers face major health and physical risks. They often work long hours and are required to undertake tasks that they are physically and developmentally unprepared to do. Carpet weaving, for example, can damage children’s eyes. Leather tanning can result in physical deformity. The Children of Sivakasi in Tamilnadu where most of the fire cracker & Fire Match industry is situated, have been suffering from bone deformities because of the dangerous Phosphorous with which they are forced to work with.

These physical dangers are compounded, as children are more liable than adults to suffer occupational injuries, owing to inattention, fatigue, poor judgement and insufficient knowledge of work processes. These health and physical effects are not limited to industrial occupations. The introduction of advanced farming techniques, new technologies, and chemicals can cause the same physical hazards in agricultural labour.

Second, child labourers are often underpaid, if at all. Children receive a fraction of the wage adults earn, even when employed in the same type of work. Also, children do not receive employment benefits, insurance, or social security. Thus, the employment of children becomes a competitive advantage for employers and even whole industries.

Finally, it is difficult for children to attend school or receive vocational training. Obviously, children working long hours have trouble attending school on a regular basis. Even if children are not working long hours, stress and fatigue affects their attendance and participation in school activities.


Overwhelming poverty in India drives most child labourers into the workforce. In some cases, children work alongside their parents in an effort to raise their household income. This practice is prevalent in agricultural and domestic labour. Many children are forced into industrial labour. Some of these children have migrated to urban centres with their families to escape rural poverty. Others move to urban centres to look for work and send their families monthly income supplements.

The New Socialist Alternative will fight alongside the trade unions and the youth for an end to child labour slavery, as was done successfully in the past by the trade unions of Europe and America. Meanwhile we demand a limit of two to four hours work per day, at full adult wages agreed by trade union rates; education at the employer’s expense; reasonable access to a proper family life; and strict health and safety conditions in the workplaces; all under trade-union supervision.

As the government of the day has given full freedom to private sector this has lead to a monster called CAPITALISM which has ruined the life of all the classes. The profit driven capitalism is the root cause of all evils and it has to go. Make Capitalism history! Only then we will say THE CHILDREN GO TO SCHOOL



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