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Child Labour Laws In India: Progress and Gaps

Child Labour, the detrimental employment of children, has cast a long shadow across human history. Though the Industrial Revolution intensified concerns, legal efforts to curb this practice have seen substantial progress. This paper delves into the evolution of child Labour laws, showcasing advancements in protecting young people. However, the fight is far from over. I will scrutinize the persistent gaps in these legal frameworks, including inadequate enforcement, regulatory loopholes, and the grim reality of hazardous child Labour in specific sectors.

The research examines the historical evolution of child Labour laws, tracing the development from early industrialization to modern-day globalization. It explores the pivotal role of international organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) in shaping global frameworks and conventions aimed at abolishing child Labour.

While significant steps have been made in enacting laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workforce, numerous challenges persist. The paper identifies key gaps in existing legislation, including inadequate enforcement mechanisms, loopholes in legal frameworks, and socio-economic factors that perpetuate child Labour in certain regions. It also examines the complexities surrounding informal and domestic Labour sectors, where regulatory oversight is often limited.

What Is Child Labour?
For numerous decades, child Labour has stood as a significant impediment to societal advancement. Its eradication represents a formidable challenge and a paramount long-term objective in numerous nations. Particularly in developing nations, the issue has garnered considerable attention in recent times. Child Labour pertains to the exploitation of children, depriving them of their rightful childhood and basic necessities essential for their well-being. Often subjected to mistreatment, these children toil for extended hours in dire conditions, leading to adverse effects on their physical, mental, and emotional health. Moreover, they are denied fundamental rights such as access to education and healthcare.

As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, a child is defined as an individual who has not yet reached the age of fourteen. At such a tender age, children are expected to engage in play, pursue education, and enjoy a carefree existence. However, reality often falls short of these expectations. Whether by choice or coercion, children find themselves employed in harsh and perilous environments, posing a threat to their well-being. Child Labour not only stunts their physical and mental development but also hinders their overall growth.

The 2011 census data reveals a stark reality, with India alone accounting for 10.1 million child Labourers, comprising 5.6 million boys and 4.5 million girls. Given that children constitute the future youth of India, it is imperative to ensure that they are provided with the necessary essentials, ranging from basic amenities like shelter, food, and clothing to social necessities such as education. Achieving this requires the implementation of appropriate legislative measures in a complex society like India, where several laws have been enacted to combat the scourge of child Labour.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), a significant number of child Labourers are engaged in hazardous occupations, despite being prohibited by law. These children are vulnerable to diseases and endure long-term physical and psychological anguish. Poverty emerges as the primary catalyst driving children into the Labour force, compelling them to work for their survival and that of their families.

International organizations have made commendable efforts to eradicate child Labour globally. Although many countries have enacted legislation to outlaw child Labour, its prevalence remains widespread across the world.

In General, we can say that, children are humanity's greatest asset, and childhood represents a critical and formative stage in human development, holding the key to the future progress of any society. When raised in environments that nurture their intellectual, physical, and social well-being, children grow into responsible and contributing members of society. The future trajectory of any nation is intimately tied to the current status of its children.

However, when children are thrust into work prematurely, it not only compromises their present well-being but also diminishes their future earning potential and opportunities. Under dire economic circumstances, children are often compelled to forego educational opportunities and engage in exploitative Labour, typically underpaid and exposed to hazardous conditions. It is unsurprising, then, that impoverished households predominantly send their children into the workforce at a young age, sacrificing their education in the process. The pervasive issue of child Labour not only deprives children of their right to education but also jeopardizes their health and safety.

India has consistently pursued a proactive approach in addressing the scourge of child Labour, advocating for constitutional, statutory, and developmental measures aimed at its elimination. The Indian Constitution contains provisions for compulsory universal primary education, reflecting the country's commitment to safeguarding children's rights. Various Labour commissions and committees have extensively examined the issue of child Labour, offering comprehensive recommendations for its mitigation. India's judiciary, including its highest courts, has displayed a deep sense of empathy and commitment in addressing the practice of child Labour. However, despite the enactment of proactive legislation, formulation of policies, and judicial interventions, child Labour remains a persistent challenge in the country.

Despite recent declines in child Labour rates, children continue to be exploited in severe forms such as bonded Labour, child soldiering, and trafficking. Child Labourers are found across various industries in India, including brick kilns, carpet weaving, garment manufacturing, domestic service, agriculture, fisheries, and mining.

Moreover, children are vulnerable to various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation and the production of child pornography, particularly in online spaces. Child Labour and exploitation stem from a myriad of factors, including poverty, societal norms that condone such practices, limited employment opportunities for adults and adolescents, migration, and emergencies. These factors not only contribute to the prevalence of child Labour but also perpetuate social inequities reinforced by discrimination.

Children belong in educational institutions, not in workplaces. Child Labour not only infringes upon children's right to receive an education but also perpetuates cycles of poverty across generations. It serves as a significant obstacle to accessing and excelling in educational pursuits, leading to reduced school attendance and performance.

The persistent prevalence of child Labour and exploitation poses grave threats to national economies, with detrimental short and long-term effects on children, including the denial of education and the erosion of physical and mental well-being. Child trafficking, often intertwined with child Labour, subjects trafficked children to various forms of abuse, including physical, mental, sexual, and emotional trauma. Trafficked children are forced into exploitative situations such as prostitution, forced marriage, illegal adoption, unpaid Labour, domestic servitude, and involvement in armed groups, exposing them to violence, sexual abuse, and the risk of HIV infection.

Child Labour and exploitation can be prevented through comprehensive approaches that bolster child protection systems, address poverty and inequality, enhance access to quality education, and rally public support for upholding children's rights. Teachers and other educational stakeholders play a crucial role as frontline advocates for child protection, identifying signs of distress or prolonged work hours among children and alerting relevant authorities. Achieving the transition of children from work to school requires broader systemic changes in public policy, empowering families to prioritize education over exploitative Labour practices.

UNICEF colLabourates with governmental and corporate entities to implement policies aimed at ending child Labour. It works with businesses to assess supply chains and develop sustainable alternatives to practices that perpetuate child Labour. Additionally, UNICEF supports families in discontinuing Labour resulting from bonded or debt bondage, while also assisting state governments in integrating programs to eradicate child Labour. Community engagement is paramount in shifting cultural norms that tolerate child Labour, while simultaneously ensuring alternative sources of income for families, access to preschools, quality education, and protective services.

Recent statistics indicate that approximately 160 million children were subjected to child Labour at the outset of 2020, with an additional 9 million children at risk due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This alarming figure translates to nearly 1 in 10 children worldwide, with nearly half of them engaged in hazardous work that directly jeopardizes their health and developmental prospects.

Children may find themselves compelled to enter the workforce for a variety of reasons. Often, child Labour arises in situations where families confront financial hardships or instability, whether stemming from poverty, the sudden illness of a caregiver, or the loss of employment by a primary breadwinner. The ramifications of child Labour are profound, resulting in severe physical and mental harm, and in some tragic cases, even death. Furthermore, it can subject children to conditions of slavery and expose them to sexual or economic exploitation. In nearly every instance, child Labour deprives children of access to education and healthcare, thereby curtailing their fundamental rights.

A significant portion of children in India are ensnared in the cycle of child Labour. According to the 2011 national census of India, the total number of child Labourers aged 5 to 14 stood at 10.12 million, out of a total of 259.64 million children in that age group. However, the issue of child Labour extends beyond India's borders; globally, an estimated 217 million children are engaged in Labour, with many toiling full-time.

The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, amended in 2016 ("CLPR Act"), defines a "Child" as any individual below the age of 14 and explicitly prohibits their employment in any capacity, including as domestic help. The employment of a Child for any work constitutes a cognizable criminal offense under this Act. Adolescents, defined as individuals between the ages of 14 and 18, are permitted to work under certain circumstances, excluding hazardous occupations and processes outlined in the Factories Act, 1948.

In 2001, an estimated 1% of all child workers in India, approximately 120,000 children, were engaged in hazardous jobs. Notably, the Constitution of India enshrines the prohibition of child Labour in hazardous industries as a Fundamental Right under Article 24. UNICEF estimates that India, with its vast population, harbors the largest number of Labourers under the age of 14 globally, while sub-Saharan African countries exhibit the highest percentage of children engaged in child Labour.

Definitions of child Labour
The International Labour Organization (ILO) characterizes child Labour as activities that strip children of their childhood, potential, and dignity, while also impeding their physical and mental development. It encompasses work that poses risks to children's mental, physical, social, or moral well-being, as well as tasks that disrupt their ability to attend regular school or concentrate during classes, thereby affecting their overall experience of a healthy childhood.

UNICEF, on the other hand, delineates child Labour differently. According to UNICEF, a child is engaged in Labour activities if, between the ages of 5 and 11, they undertake at least one hour of economic activity or at least 28 hours of domestic work per week. For children aged 12 to 14, involvement in Labour is defined as at least 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of combined economic and domestic work per week. UNICEF further emphasizes that children's Labour should be viewed along a spectrum, ranging from exploitative work detrimental to their development, to beneficial work that enhances their growth without interfering with their education, recreation, or rest. Between these extremes lies a broad spectrum of Labour that may or may not adversely affect a child's development.

India's Census 2001 office offers its own definition of child Labour, categorizing it as the engagement of children under the age of 17 in any economically productive activity, whether compensated or not. Such activities may involve physical or mental exertion and include part-time assistance or unpaid contributions to family businesses, farms, or other economic endeavors such as agricultural work or milk production for sale or domestic use. The Indian government further classifies child Labourers into two groups: main workers, who are engaged in Labour for at least 6 months per year, and marginal child workers, who work intermittently throughout the year for less than 6 months.

Some activists for child rights argue that child Labour should encompass every child not attending school, as they are effectively hidden child workers. However, UNICEF highlights the significant shortages of schools, classrooms, and teachers in India, particularly in rural areas, where approximately 90 percent of the child Labour issue is concentrated. Alarmingly, about one in five primary schools operates with just one teacher responsible for instructing students across all grades.

Following its independence from colonial rule, India enacted various constitutional protections and laws pertaining to child Labour. The Constitution of India, within its Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, explicitly prohibits child Labour below the age of 14 in any hazardous employment setting, such as factories, mines, or other perilous occupations (Article 24). Moreover, the constitution aimed to provide infrastructure and resources for free and compulsory education to all children aged six to 14 by the year 1960 (Article 21-A and Article 45).

India's governmental structure, characterized by a federal form of governance, allocates Labour as a subject in the Concurrent List, enabling both the central and state governments to legislate on child Labour.

The Factories Act, 1948: This legislation prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age in any factory and establishes regulations regarding the employment of individuals aged 15 to 18 in factory settings.

The Mines Act, 1952: This act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in mining operations.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLPR Act): Under this act, a "Child" is defined as any person below the age of 14, and it prohibits their employment in any capacity, including domestic work, except when assisting their own family in non-hazardous occupations. It constitutes a punishable criminal offense to employ a child for any work. Adolescents, defined as individuals aged 14 to 18, may be employed except in hazardous occupations outlined by law.

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: This legislation mandates free and compulsory education for all children aged 6 to 16. Additionally, it requires that 25 percent of seats in private schools be allocated to children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, although challenges remain in implementing this provision.

India also established a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987, advocating for a gradual and sequential approach focusing on rehabilitating children engaged in hazardous occupations. This policy emphasizes strict enforcement of child Labour laws alongside development programs addressing root causes such as poverty. The subsequent establishment of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) in 1988 reflects this commitment, with ongoing government funding aimed at eradicating child Labour in India. Despite these concerted efforts, child Labour continues to pose a significant challenge for the country.

Importance of Child Labour Laws In India
At the onset of 2020, approximately 160 million children were ensnared in child Labour, with an additional 9 million at risk due to the disruptive effects of COVID-19. This alarming figure translates to nearly one in ten children globally, with nearly half of them engaged in hazardous work posing direct threats to their well-being and growth.

Children often find themselves compelled to work for various reasons, primarily stemming from financial hardships or uncertainties within their families. Factors such as poverty, sudden illness of a caregiver, or the loss of a primary wage earner frequently drive children into the workforce. The repercussions of child Labour are profound, leading to severe physical and mental harm, even fatalities, and exposing children to exploitation in various forms, including slavery and sexual or economic exploitation. Additionally, it frequently deprives them of access to education and healthcare, thereby impinging on their fundamental rights.

Migrant and refugee children, particularly those displaced by conflict, disaster, or poverty, are especially vulnerable to forced Labour and trafficking, especially if they are migrating alone or taking irregular routes with their families. Trafficked children are often subjected to egregious violations of their human rights, enduring violence, abuse, and exploitation, with girls particularly at risk of sexual exploitation, while boys may be coerced into joining armed forces or groups.
  • Poverty's Grip: Poverty stands as the primary catalyst for child Labour in India. With a significant portion of the population grappling with poverty, parents find themselves unable to afford their children's education, compelling them to seek employment from a young age. Often, these parents have experienced the anguish of poverty firsthand and are driven by the urgent need to enhance their family's income. Consequently, they send their young ones to work in factories, households, and shops, solely to alleviate the financial burdens weighing on their families. However, such decisions exact a heavy toll on the physical and mental well-being of these children, depriving them of their rightful childhood.
  • Educational Shortcomings: Despite the passage of numerous years since India gained independence, significant gaps persist in providing children with their fundamental right to education. In many regions across the country, particularly in rural areas, educational facilities are severely lacking or non-existent. Even when schools do exist, they are often situated miles away, rendering them inaccessible to many children. This administrative negligence contributes to the prevalence of child Labour in India, with impoverished families bearing the brunt of the consequences. For these families, the dream of educating their children remains elusive, as the absence of affordable schooling options leaves their offspring illiterate and vulnerable. Consequently, some children are compelled to forego their studies, falling prey to the cycle of child Labour in India.
  • Socioeconomic Disadvantage: The prevalence of social and economic backwardness stands as a significant driver of child Labour in India. Parents hailing from socially disadvantaged backgrounds often do not prioritize sending their children to school, resulting in their entrapment in child Labour. Illiteracy among parents further exacerbates the issue, as they remain unaware of various educational opportunities and government schemes available for their children. The lack of education and awareness about their rights fosters an environment conducive to child Labour. Additionally, many uneducated parents fail to comprehend the detrimental impact of child Labour on their children. Rural families, grappling with poverty and unemployment, find themselves compelled to engage their children in various tasks simply to make ends meet. The remnants of feudal and zamindari systems perpetuate this cycle of child Labour in India.
  • Previous Debts: The dire economic circumstances faced by many Indians force them to resort to borrowing money, often from moneylenders, and sometimes even mortgaging their possessions to do so. However, due to inadequate income, debtors struggle to repay their debts and the accompanying interest. This vicious cycle of poverty drives them to work tirelessly for creditors, and in some cases, they enlist their children's help in order to repay the debts. Some children are coerced into Labour to support their families, as they face pressure to provide food, shelter, and repay debts owed by their parents. Others are forcibly sold into slavery against their will.
  • Occupational Demands: Certain industries, such as the bangle-making industry, require delicate hands and nimble fingers to perform intricate tasks with precision. Adults often lack the requisite dexterity and size to handle such delicate work, necessitating the employment of children. This exposes children to hazardous tasks involving glasswork, leading to frequent eye injuries.
  • Challenges Stemming from Addiction, Illness, or Disability: In many households, addiction, illness, or disability among family members results in a lack of earnings, leaving the child's wages as the sole means of sustenance for the family. Additionally, population growth exacerbates unemployment, further driving families to send their children to work instead of school to augment family income.
  • Poor Enforcement of Laws: Despite modern laws guaranteeing citizens the right to education, healthcare, leisure, and suitable employment, inadequate enforcement perpetuates the prevalence of child Labour in India. Strict adherence to existing laws is crucial for combating child Labour effectively.
  • Attraction of Inexpensive Labour: Driven by the desire for cost-effective Labour, some merchants, businesses, and factory proprietors exploit children to minimize Labour costs. They hire children at lower wages, effectively creating a pool of cheap Labour. Shopkeepers and small-scale entrepreneurs often assign children the same workload as adults but compensate them at reduced rates. Utilizing child Labour also minimizes the risk of theft, embezzlement, or financial mismanagement. The evolution of globalization, privatization, and consumerist tendencies has further fueled the demand for cheap Labour and its association with the economic requirements of impoverished households, thereby fostering child Labour in India.
  • Absence of Viable Alternatives: According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), a significant factor driving children into hazardous Labour is the absence of viable alternatives, such as accessible and affordable educational opportunities. Children find themselves compelled to work due to dissatisfaction and the absence of alternative means of earning. In many areas, particularly rural regions where child Labour is prevalent, acceptable educational facilities are lacking. Even when schools are accessible, they are often situated far away, financially burdensome to access, or provide substandard instruction, leading parents to question the value of sending their children to school. Despite 75 years of independence, numerous children continue to be denied their right to education due to their circumstances, highlighting the imperative for the effective implementation of national initiatives.
  • Familial Customs and Traditions: Regrettably, in our society, child Labour is often rationalized under the guise of tradition or custom within many families. Cultural and traditional family norms contribute to the exacerbation of the child Labour issue in India on a voluntary basis. Some families perceive a prosperous life as unattainable, viewing traditional Labour practices as their sole means of livelihood. Small-scale entrepreneurs may sacrifice their children's futures in pursuit of sustaining their family businesses with reduced production costs. Additionally, some families believe that engaging children in Labour from a young age will instill diligence and worldly wisdom, facilitating their future prospects. They contend that early employment fosters personal development, aiding in future life planning.
  • Gender Discrimination: Deep-seated gender biases perpetuate the notion that girls are inherently weaker than boys, resulting in unequal treatment and opportunities. Even today, many instances exist in our society where girls are deprived of educational opportunities. Perceiving girls as inferior to boys deprives them of access to schooling and education. In families engaged in Labour-intensive activities, girls are often compelled to work alongside their parents, further entrenching gender-based disparities.
Whatever the cause, child Labour exacerbates social disparity and prejudice. Unlike activities conducive to children's development, like assisting with light household chores or undertaking occasional jobs during school breaks, child Labour impedes access to education and undermines a child's overall well-being, including their physical, mental, and social development. This burden is particularly pronounced for girls, who often face the "triple burden" of managing school responsibilities, work obligations, and household chores. This increased workload heightens their susceptibility to falling behind academically, rendering them more susceptible to poverty and marginalization.

Different forms of child Labour prevalent in India
Child Labour in India can be broadly categorized into two main types: industrial and domestic, with bonded Labour also being prevalent. Below, we will delve into the specifics of these sectors in India that employ children as Labourers, along with the demographic details.Top of Form
  • Industrial Child Labour: The industrial sector in India serves as the primary employer of children below the legal working age of 18. An estimated over 10 million children aged 5 to 14 are engaged in informal or small-scale industries, with approximately 4.5 million being girls. Industries such as garment manufacturing, brick kilns, agriculture, fireworks, and diamond cutting are among the major employers of children. Often, these industries operate informally or from home settings, posing challenges for authorities to enforce regulations.

    The unorganized sector in India stands out as one of the largest and most visible employers of child Labour. Children are commonly seen working in roadside eateries, tea stalls, grocery stores, and similar small businesses. Owners of such establishments often prefer children due to their perceived ease of management and disposability.
  • Domestic Child Labour: Domestic child Labour constitutes about 10% of the total child Labour force in India. Both boys and girls are employed by affluent families to perform household chores. These children are deprived of their right to education and play, as they are obligated to cater to the needs of other families. Poverty is the primary driving force behind the employment of children as domestic helpers, with parents often consenting in hopes of financial gain and stable housing for their children.

    Statistics paint a troubling picture, revealing that nearly 20% of all domestic workers are under the age of 14, predominantly girls. These children are often employed as live-in servants, responsible for tasks such as cooking, cleaning, childcare, and pet care.
  • Bonded Child Labour: Bonded child Labour refers to the exploitation of children who are forced to work to repay debts owed by their parents or guardians. Although the prevalence of bonded child Labour has decreased significantly due to stringent government regulations and prohibitions, isolated instances persist, particularly in remote areas.

    Children living in rural villages and engaged in agricultural work are particularly vulnerable to this form of exploitation. Impoverished farmers burdened with substantial debts often enter agreements with wealthy creditors, offering their children as Labourers. While there were once thousands of bonded child Labourers across various industries, government efforts have reduced their numbers drastically, with authorities claiming that bonded child Labour no longer exists in India.

Others Forms are:
  • Domestic Servitude: Children, especially from impoverished backgrounds, are employed as domestic servants in households. They are often subjected to exploitation, abuse, and long hours of work.
  • Agricultural Labour: In rural areas, children are employed in agricultural activities, including farming, herding, and tending to livestock. They are often deprived of education and basic rights.
  • Construction Work: Many children are employed in construction sites, where they engage in strenuous Labour such as carrying heavy loads, digging, and other hazardous tasks. They are exposed to dangerous working conditions and risk injuries.
  • Street Vendors and Begging: Children are sometimes forced into street vending or begging by unscrupulous individuals or even their families. They work long hours in harsh conditions, often without access to proper nutrition or education.
  • Manufacturing Industries: Children are employed in various manufacturing industries such as textiles, fireworks, and handicrafts. They work in hazardous environments and are vulnerable to physical and psychological harm.
  • Bonded Labour: In some parts of India, children are trapped in bonded Labour, where they are forced to work to pay off debts incurred by their families. They are often subjected to exploitation and abuse.
  • Sexual Exploitation: Tragically, some children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography. They are forced into this work by traffickers or circumstances beyond their control.
  • Domestic Work in Informal Sector: Children, especially girls, are employed as domestic workers in small-scale industries and informal sectors. They often work long hours for little or no pay and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Efforts to eradicate child Labour in India involve legislative measures, social interventions, and economic empowerment programs aimed at providing education, healthcare, and alternative livelihood opportunities for vulnerable children and their families. However, despite these efforts, child Labour persists due to various socio-economic factors such as poverty, lack of education, and inadequate enforcement of Labour laws.

Consequences of child Labour
The prevalence of a significant number of child Labourers poses a critical concern in terms of economic well-being. Children engaged in Labour miss out on essential education, hindering their physical, intellectual, emotional, and psychological development. Physically, children are not suited for prolonged, repetitive work, leading to quicker exhaustion compared to adults, thus compromising their health and rendering them more susceptible to illnesses.

Children exposed to hazardous working conditions fare even worse. By forgoing education in favor of work, they remain illiterate, limiting their capacity to contribute to their own welfare and that of their communities. The ramifications of child Labour extend into the long term, posing adverse effects for India's societal fabric.

Sustaining a thriving economy necessitates an educated workforce equipped with relevant skills tailored to industrial demands. Today's youthful Labour force will constitute India's human capital in the future. Child Labour invariably undermines the accumulation of human capital, presenting a trade-off that inhibits economic growth.

In India, child Labour predominantly occurs in agriculture (constituting 70% of cases), with some children employed in low-skilled, Labour-intensive sectors like sari weaving or domestic assistance, which do not require formal education or training. However, some children are also employed in heavy industries such as coal mining.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) underscores significant economic advantages for developing nations in prioritizing children's education over Labour. Education equips children with essential skills like English literacy and technical proficiency, enhancing their productivity and enabling access to higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs in the future, thereby lifting them out of poverty.

Diamond Sector
In 1999, a report co-published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers, a trade union, asserted the prevalence of child Labour in India's diamond industry. Similarly, a press release from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in 1997 highlighted the persistence of child Labour in the same industry. However, not all parties concurred with these allegations. The South Gujarat Diamond Workers Association, another trade union, acknowledged the existence of child Labour but contended that it was sporadic, accounting for less than 1% and contrary to local industry standards. Local diamond industry stakeholders also played down these accusations.

According to the 1999 ILO report, India annually processes 60% of the world's diamonds by weight or 40% by value. Furthermore, India contributes 95% of the world's emeralds, 85% of rubies, and 65% of sapphires, all processed through traditional, Labour-intensive methods. Approximately 1.5 million individuals are employed in the diamond industry, primarily within the unorganized sector. The industry comprises numerous small-scale units, each employing a handful of workers. Despite its significance, the industry lacks significant scaling, organization, and major operators.

The ILO report suggests that this lack of scaling is to circumvent India's intricate Labour laws. Export orders are fragmented, work is subcontracted through multiple intermediaries, and most workers are unaware of the enterprise behind the export order. Consequently, the exact number of child Labourers in India's diamond and gem industry remains unknown. However, the ILO estimates that in 1997, there were between 10,000 and 20,000 child Labourers out of a total workforce of 1.5 million (approximately 1 in 100). According to the report, factors driving child Labour include parents viewing education as costly and of little practical value, while artisanal work in the diamond and gem industry is seen as more lucrative as children grow older.

A more recent study from 2005, conducted across 663 manufacturing units in 21 different locations within India's diamond and gem industry, claims that the incidence rate of child Labour has declined to 0.31%.

Fireworks Manufacturing
The town of Sivakasi in South India, renowned for its fireworks and matchstick industries, has been reported to utilize child Labour in fireworks production. In 2011, Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, housed over 9,500 firecracker factories, contributing nearly 100% of India's total fireworks output. The industry employed approximately 150,000 individuals, with an average of 15 employees per factory. Most of these workers were engaged in the unorganized sector, with only a handful of registered and structured companies.

In 1989, Shubh Bhardwaj reported the presence of child Labour in India's fireworks industry, alongside subpar safety standards. Child Labour was prevalent in small, informal operations within the unorganized sector. Only four companies had scaled up and operated within the organized sector, employing over 500 workers each. These larger enterprises refrained from employing children and maintained superior safety protocols and resources. Child Labourers in small, unorganized operations endured extended working hours, low wages, hazardous conditions, and strenuous schedules.

A more recent report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2002 highlighted significant child Labour in Tamil Nadu's fireworks, matches, or incense stick industries. However, these children typically did not work within the formal economy or corporate establishments catering to export markets. Instead, child Labourers were found within supply chains producing for the domestic market of fireworks, matches, or incense sticks. The ILO report suggested that as demand for these products surged, the formal economy and corporate establishments failed to expand accordingly, leading to a proliferation of home-based production operations and an increased risk of child Labour. Such covert operations posed challenges for research and effective intervention, according to the ILO.

Silk Manufacturing
A 2003 report by Human Rights Watch alleged the employment of children as young as five years old in the silk industry, working up to 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week. These children were purportedly victims of bonded Labour, despite the Indian government's denial of its existence. The report asserted that such children were readily found in silk industries in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, enduring harsh conditions such as dipping their hands in scalding water to handle cocoons, often receiving meager wages of less than Rs 10 per day.

In 2012, a German investigative news report claimed that in states like Karnataka, non-governmental organizations had identified up to 15,000 children working in 1,100 silk factories in 1998. In other regions, thousands of bonded child Labourers were reportedly present in 1995. However, following the intervention of UNICEF and NGOs, the prevalence of child Labour had significantly decreased, with the total estimated to be fewer than a thousand child Labourers. The report asserted that the released children had been reintegrated into school systems.

Carpet Weaving
Siddartha Kara's research indicates that approximately 20% of carpets manufactured in India may involve child Labour. He emphasizes the need for extensive supply chain tracing to ascertain the extent of slavery and child Labour in the hand-made carpet industry from India to the U.S.A. Kara's study also reveals variations in child Labour practices among different ethnic and religious groups. He and his colleagues observe the highest incidence of child Labour in Muslim community carpet operations, along with the presence of debt-bonded child Labourers in Muslim villages.

Domestic Labour
Official figures estimate that over 2,500,000 children are engaged in domestic Labour and restaurant work, although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) suggest a much higher figure of around 20 million. The Government of India broadened the coverage of The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act in 2006, prohibiting the employment of children as domestic workers and in various hospitality sectors such as restaurants, dhabas, hotels, spas, and resorts.

Despite laws passed in 1952 prohibiting the employment of individuals under the age of 18, primitive coal mines in Meghalaya were found to be employing children below this age threshold. This issue gained international media attention in 2013, highlighting the persistence of child Labour in certain sectors despite legal prohibitions.

Brick Kilns
Numerous brick kilns in the vicinity of Bangalore and Hosur employ bonded and child Labour, often under the guise of offering high wages. In 2018, law enforcement rescued 22 bonded Labourers, including children, from a brick kiln near Anekal in Bangalore, resulting in the arrest of the employers. Allegations against the employers included providing substandard food and working conditions to the Labourers.

Review Of Literature
Krveger (1996) has demonstrated a clear trend from cross-country samples indicating that low-income households are more inclined to send their children to the Labour market, a phenomenon less common among wealthier households.

Basu (1999) discovered that during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, children were compelled to work not only on family farms but also in factories, where they tended crops or assisted in food preparation. These industries subjected children to extremely hazardous and often fatal working conditions. At that time, industries preferred child Labour due to its affordability and the perceived malleability of child workers.

Bass (2004) examined the prevalence of child Labour in both developed and developing nations, noting a significant reduction in child Labour in the developed world. However, child Labour persists in many regions due to factors such as rapid population growth, high unemployment rates, inflation, poverty, malnutrition, ineffective governance, corruption, and low wages.

SerwaddaLuwaga (2005) described the widespread occurrence of child Labour worldwide, particularly in low-income countries, where children are engaged in various sectors of the economy, including agriculture, manufacturing, fishing, construction, domestic service, and street vending. These children often work under poor and perilous conditions without social protection.

Lavison and Murray (2005) reported that child Labourers are involved in a variety of hazardous occupations, exposing them to physical pain, injuries, and health hazards.

Odusote (2006) contended that any work performed by children outside the home should be classified as child Labour, emphasizing the exposure of such children to environmental hazards that jeopardize their health and safety.

Fasih (2007) asserted that child Labour contributes to the proliferation of unskilled and uneducated Labour forces, thereby hindering a country's development and economy.

Bhat (2010) discussed the complexity of defining child Labour, considering the difficulty in defining the concepts of "child," "Labour," and "work." He also explored the varying perceptions of childhood across different societies.

Bilal Ahmad Bhat (2010) analyzed the significance of education in combating child Labour, emphasizing the importance of parental education in facilitating their children's access to education and breaking the cycle of intergenerational child Labour.

Aqil (2012) analyzed the intergenerational transmission of child Labour, suggesting that children whose parents engaged in child Labour are more likely to follow suit. Thus, parental education plays a crucial role in breaking this cycle and enabling children to access better education opportunities.

Das (2012) highlighted the challenge of accurately assessing the incidence of child Labour worldwide due to the lack of reliable statistics and the invisibility of many child Labourers.

History &Socio Economic Factors and Health Impact Of Child Labour Laws

The 18th-century industrial revolution in England marked a pivotal moment in human history, ushering in profound changes to the economic and social fabric. Prior to this period, individuals, whether adults or children, held distinct identities irrespective of their workplace. However, the industrial revolution brought about a transformation in production patterns, characterized by the adoption of new management techniques, technology, and asset ownership. This shift also altered human relationships, fundamentally changing the perception of Labour value, now determined by employers. Consequently, a significant number of children were initially employed by mill owners and later by factory owners.

Additionally, the demand for child Labour in the agricultural sector surged due to the migration of adult men to industrial towns, leaving children to fill the void and undertake various agricultural tasks. The term "child Labour" is sometimes used interchangeably with "employed child" or "working child," denoting any work performed by a child for economic gain. However, more commonly, "child Labour" carries social connotations, suggesting exploitation, injustice, and harm.

In India, there is a lack of precise statutory definitions for the term "child Labour." Even legislative provisions that establish minimum ages for employment admission across different vocations do not uniformly specify age requirements due to variations in the nature of employment operations. Working children, typically under the age of 14, engage in Labour and receive compensation in cash or kind, or they may provide services that would otherwise incur expenses for the family. These children may or may not continue working alongside their schooling.

Even in Kautilya's Arthashastra from the 3rd century B.C., the employment of children in India, often in the form of slavery, was documented. It depicted the prevalence of domestic slavery in affluent households, where slaves, typically from lower castes, included child slaves as young as eight years old working in the homes of nobles. During the medieval period, children were commonly apprenticed to artisans and craftsmen, with certain crafts heavily reliant on child Labour. This tradition persists today in industries such as carpet weaving, cotton, or silk weaving, which still employ a significant number of children in our country.

In agrarian societies, children were assigned tasks according to their abilities, seen as integral to the socialization process. Children from agrarian families began learning and contributing to household and community activities from a young age, while adults focused on more Labour-intensive skilled tasks. Children thus became essential members of the agricultural household economy, receiving training for various roles and gradually assuming responsibilities. In a quasi-federal system of production, familial obligations often compelled all family members, including children, to engage in extra work to meet household subsistence needs. Instances of this form of Labour, resembling bonded Labour, still persist sporadically today.

Globally, there has been a reduction in the incidence of child Labour from 25% to 10% between 1960 and 2003, as reported by the World Bank. However, despite this decline, the total number of child Labourers remains high. UNICEF and ILO estimated that 168 million children aged 5-17 worldwide were engaged in child Labour in 2013. At a UN seminar on child Labour in 1985, while emphasizing the urgent need to eliminate the exploitation of child Labour as an "intolerable evil," it was recognized that achieving the complete eradication of child Labour would be a long-term endeavor requiring significant time. Notably, official delegates from developing countries acknowledged the existence of child Labour in their respective nations. Although legislation regulating child Labour existed, it was deemed ineffective in solving the problem. Many favoredregulation over outright banning.

India's child Labour laws prohibit children from being employed in factories with high wages, but not in cottage industries, restaurants, households, and the agricultural sector, where wages are lower. Interestingly, the agricultural sector emerges as the largest single employer of child Labour in India. The union Labour minister, upon introducing the Child Labour (Regulation and Prohibition) Act of 1986, characterized child Labour as a national challenge or "national concern," signaling the beginning of efforts to address the issue. The initiation of the National Child Labour Program (NCLP) in August 1987 was seen as a positive step forward. The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) directs attention towards the ultimate goal of addressing the problem of child Labour.

It is concerning that international agencies like the ILO may suggest regularizing child Labour rather than outright banning it, even if only as an interim measure. However, it must not be forgotten that child Labour not only hampers the overall development of children but also has serious consequences for society as a whole.

This change in attitude coincides with the fact that child Labour is no longer a significant issue in developed societies. When child Labour does exist in economically developed nations, it primarily affects marginalized groups, particularly migrants who have little societal influence.

Pre-Colonial Era:

  • Traditional Socio-Economic System: India's pre-colonial society was primarily agrarian, with agriculture forming the backbone of the economy. In rural areas, children were often expected to contribute to agricultural activities from a young age, helping with tasks such as herding livestock, tending crops, and assisting in household chores.
  • Craftsmanship and Apprenticeship: Craftsmanship was an integral part of Indian society, with various artisanal communities engaged in producing textiles, pottery, metalwork, and other goods. Children were often apprenticed to master craftsmen to learn these skills, starting at a young age. While apprenticeship provided vocational training, it also exposed children to long hours of work and sometimes exploitative conditions.
  • Caste System and Social Norms: India's caste system and social hierarchy influenced the types of labour children were expected to perform. Children from lower castes and marginalized communities often faced limited opportunities for education and were compelled to engage in menial or labour-intensive work to support their families.
  • Family-Based Economy: The family unit played a crucial role in the economic structure of pre-colonial India. Children were regarded as integral contributors to family livelihoods, and their labour was often essential for subsistence, particularly in agrarian households and artisanal workshops.

Colonial Era:

  • British Colonial Exploitation: The advent of British colonial rule in India brought significant changes to the socio-economic landscape. British colonial policies prioritized the extraction of raw materials and the establishment of industries to serve British interests, leading to the exploitation of Indian labour, including child labour, to fuel the colonial economy.
  • Industrialization and Factory System: The British colonial administration introduced industrialization to India, establishing factories and mills for textile manufacturing, jute processing, and other industries. Child labour became widespread in these factories, with children as young as five or six years old working long hours in hazardous conditions for meagre wages.
  • Legislative Responses: In response to growing concerns about labour exploitation, the British colonial government enacted various Factory Acts to regulate working conditions in factories, including provisions related to child labour. However, these laws were often inadequate and poorly enforced, leading to continued exploitation of child labourers.
  • Economic Exploitation: The colonial economy was structured in a way that perpetuated poverty and economic exploitation, particularly among marginalized communities. Many families were forced to send their children to work in factories and mines to supplement household incomes and survive in the face of economic hardship.
  • Social Reform Movements: The colonial period also witnessed the emergence of social reform movements and advocacy groups that campaigned against child labour and called for improved working conditions and educational opportunities for children. Figures like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Mahatma Gandhi spoke out against the exploitation of child labourers and advocated for social justice and equality.

Post Independence Era:
In the post-independence era, India intensified its efforts to address the issue of child labour through legislative measures, social reforms, and economic development initiatives. Here's an overview of the historical background of child labour laws in India during this period:
  • Constitutional Provisions: The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, laid down the foundational principles for protecting the rights of children. Article 24 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in hazardous occupations. This provision marked a significant step towards addressing child labour at the constitutional level.
  • Legislative Reforms: Following independence, the Indian government enacted several laws and amendments aimed at combating child labour and ensuring the welfare of children. The Factories Act, 1948 was amended to strengthen provisions related to the employment of children in factories and hazardous industries. Additionally, the Mines Act, 1952 introduced regulations for the employment of children in mines.
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986: One of the most significant legislative measures targeting child labour in India, this act prohibited the employment of children in certain hazardous occupations and processes. It also regulated the working conditions for children in non-hazardous industries, setting forth provisions related to working hours, age limits, and penalties for violations.
  • Ratification of International Conventions: India ratified various international conventions and agreements related to child rights and labour standards. These include the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions such as Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age and Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
  • Education Initiatives: Recognizing the importance of education in combating child labour, the Indian government launched various education initiatives and programs. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), launched in 2001, aimed to provide universal elementary education and increase school enrolment, particularly among marginalized and vulnerable children.
  • Social Welfare Schemes: Alongside educational initiatives, the government introduced social welfare schemes targeting vulnerable populations, including children engaged in labour. Programs such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) provided nutritional support, healthcare, and early childhood education to children in need.
  • NGO and Civil Society Efforts: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups played a crucial role in complementing government efforts to combat child labour. These organizations implemented grassroots interventions, raised awareness, provided support services, and advocated for policy reforms.

Socio-economic factors perpetuating child Labour
Child Labour poses a significant obstacle to both the social and economic advancement of a nation. Children engaged in various sectors often miss out on essential education, effectively condemning them to a life of hardship and poverty. Additionally, their overall health suffers as they easily become fatigued and lack the physical stamina to endure prolonged work under challenging conditions.

In industries such as glass and firecrackers, child Labourers not only toil for extended hours but also face hazardous environments, greatly jeopardizing their well-being. Continuous exposure to toxic gases and substances predisposes them to various skin and respiratory ailments.

Children forced into Labour are deprived of the opportunity to develop into self-sufficient individuals capable of making meaningful contributions to society. Furthermore, for a nation's economy to thrive, it is crucial that its workforce is educated and skilled to meet the demands of diverse sectors. However, this aspiration remains distant as long as child Labour persists.

As long as children are employed as Labourers, India will struggle to effectively combat poverty and illiteracy. Prioritizing education over Labour could yield significant long-term economic and social dividends. Educated children acquire essential skills and access higher-paying jobs, lifting both themselves and the nation out of poverty.

Several socio-economic factors contribute to the prevalence of child Labour:
  • Poverty as the Fundamental Cause: Various factors influence the prevalence of child Labour, with poverty emerging as the primary underlying reason. Studies have consistently shown that poverty drives decisions regarding child Labour and schooling, predominantly made by parents. When families fall below the poverty line, parents often feel compelled to involve their children in Labour activities to augment family income. Basu (1998) illustrated this dynamic through a theoretical model, highlighting that low income is the sole motivation behind parents sending their children to work. Consequently, impoverished parents struggle to afford schooling for their children, leading to a scenario where children from economically disadvantaged households are often forced into Labour instead of attending school.
  • Impact of Family Size: The participation of children in Labour tends to be more prevalent in larger, impoverished households compared to smaller ones, indicating that family size influences child Labour. Parents may feel obligated to enlist their children in work due to the challenges of managing a large family. Additionally, gender disparities exist within household Labour, with boys more likely to attend school compared to girls.
  • Family Circumstances: Growing numbers of children orphaned or impacted by HIV/AIDS within their families are compelled to engage in Labour to support themselves and their siblings. Particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the rising prevalence of orphaned children, many of whom become street children, face dire living conditions.
  • Traditional and Cultural Influences: Cultural norms also play a significant role in pushing children into the Labour market. Many societies have traditions that dictate children start working at a young age, ostensibly to acquire skills beneficial for their future. Tauson (2009) highlighted this phenomenon in rural Guatemala, where parents view children's Labour as a means for them to learn essential skills.
  • Impact of Corruption: Corruption represents a major contributing factor to resource mismanagement, particularly in impoverished regions where poverty is rampant. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2012), corruption exacerbates poverty, inequality, and undermines human development and stability. It perpetuates conflict, violates human rights, and undermines democratic processes. Corruption severely hampers children's rights by depriving them of essential services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, thereby impeding their ability to break free from the cycle of poverty.
  • Impact of Civil War: Civil war significantly contributes to the prevalence of child Labour. Such conflicts devastate the economy, plunging people into poverty and diverting all resources towards the war effort. The repercussions of war include the spread of diseases, increased poverty, widespread destruction, and various other devastating consequences. Efforts to alleviate these issues are futile as long as the conflict persists.
  • Urban Migration: Many rural families migrate to urban areas due to a combination of factors pushing them from rural regions and pulling them towards urban centers. Consequently, they often find themselves living and working on the streets due to a lack of access to basic necessities such as food and shelter. These children often become street vendors, exposing them to violence and making them susceptible to engaging in illegal activities such as theft, trafficking, drug abuse, and prostitution. Urban poverty exacerbates their plight, with many child Labourers living in unhealthy conditions in slum areas and working in sectors like domestic work, hotels, and restaurants.
The influx of immigrants and natural population growth contribute to the burgeoning population in cities, exacerbating urban poverty. This multidimensional phenomenon presents numerous challenges in the daily lives of the urban poor, including unemployment, housing shortages, violence, and unhealthy environments. Increased urbanization has led to the proliferation of slums characterized by high unemployment, poor sanitation, inadequate access to clean water, and substandard housing.
  • Impact of Globalization: Globalization, while offering opportunities for economic growth through increased trade possibilities and foreign direct investment (FDI), also has adverse effects on child Labour in developing countries. Many international companies outsource their production to countries with lax Labour regulations, often exploiting children as cheap and compliant Labourers in hazardous occupations. In India, globalization has led to an increase in children working in sectors like brick kilns, motor garages, hotels, shops, transportation, and manual Labour.
  • Relationship between Child Labour, Family Income, and Education: Lack of education or poor-quality education contributes significantly to the high incidence of child Labour. Education is viewed as a primary means of abolishing child Labour, yet poverty often hinders children's access to education as poor parents cannot afford school fees and related expenses. Consequently, children are compelled to work instead of being enrolled in school.
  • Opportunity Costs of Education: The cost of education poses a significant barrier for poor households, leading to the exploitation of children as Labourers. Accessible and affordable schooling is essential to combatting child Labour. While increasing school availability may boost enrollment rates, it may not necessarily reduce child Labour incidence. Quality education, facilitated by educated teachers and adequate resources, is crucial in deterring children from entering the workforce. However, many poor families rely on children's income for survival and struggle to afford school fees, uniforms, and other related expenses, posing a challenge for developing countries striving to provide quality education.
The Devastating Impact of Child Labour on Children in India
In India, the issue of child Labour has persisted for an extensive period, with millions of children being subjected to hazardous and exploitative work instead of enjoying their childhood and attending school. Factors such as poverty, lack of access to education, and entrenched cultural norms all contribute to the perpetuation of this problem. The impact is particularly severe for marginalized children, who are disproportionately affected and bear the brunt of the long-term consequences of child Labour.

The ramifications of child Labour on underprivileged children are manifold and profound. Firstly, it deprives them of their fundamental right to education, compelling them to engage in Labour to support themselves or their families instead of receiving formal schooling. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty, as the lack of education impedes their ability to break free from impoverished conditions in the future. Moreover, it hampers their potential to fulfill their aspirations, as they are denied the opportunity to acquire skills or pursue interests that could lead to meaningful careers.

Child Labour also poses significant risks to children's physical and mental well-being. Many are subjected to toil in perilous environments such as factories or mines, exposing them to hazardous chemicals, heavy machinery, and other safety hazards. This puts them at risk of sustaining severe injuries or even fatalities. Furthermore, enduring long hours of Labour without adequate rest or proper nutrition can result in chronic fatigue, malnutrition, and various other health complications.

Additionally, child Labour often entails exploitation and mistreatment, including physical abuse, sexual harassment, and coercion into forced Labour. Young children compelled to work are particularly vulnerable to such abuses, lacking the awareness and experience to assert their rights or seek assistance. Consequently, they may endure lasting trauma and emotional distress as a result of their exploitation.

Physical Health Implications:

  • Malnutrition: Child Labourers frequently experience malnutrition due to limited access to nutritious food. Their prolonged work hours often occur without adequate meals, resulting in inhibited growth, weakness, and heightened vulnerability to illnesses.
  • Occupational Risks: Numerous child Labourers encounter perilous working environments within sectors like agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. They confront potential accidents, injuries, and occupational ailments stemming from exposure to hazardous substances and machinery.
  • Health Concerns: Extended exposure to substandard working conditions can lead to an array of health challenges, encompassing respiratory issues, musculoskeletal disorders, skin afflictions, and reproductive health complications among adolescent Labourers.

Mental Health Ramifications:

  • Psychological Distress: Child Labour frequently subjects children to severe mistreatment, exploitation, and maltreatment, fostering psychological distress. They may grapple with stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of helplessness due to their circumstances.
  • Emotional Strain: The separation from their families, absence of social support, and shouldering adult responsibilities at a tender age can induce emotional strain and feelings of isolation among child Labourers.
  • Developmental Impact: Child Labour deprives children of educational opportunities, social interactions, and personal growth, impeding their emotional and cognitive development. Such deprivation can yield enduring effects on their self-esteem, confidence, and societal integration.
According to the latest Global Estimates of Child Labour from 2017, a staggering 73 million children are engaged in hazardous Labour, directly jeopardizing their health and safety. Hazardous work carries the potential for fatalities, severe illnesses or injuries, permanent disabilities, or psychological harm, attributable to deficient safety and health standards, exploitation, or abuse.

Children may toil in perilous conditions across various sectors, including agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, the service industry, retail, and domestic service. Yet, agriculture harbors the highest prevalence of child Labourers (71%), posing a sector particularly susceptible to hazardous conditions, especially for children. For instance, hazardous tasks within cotton production represent some of the most severe forms of child Labour, with children exposed to harmful pesticides (as stipulated by the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, universally ratified in 2020). The EU's involvement in safeguarding children from such hazards is exemplified by the Clear Cotton project, spearheaded by the ILO and FAO.

The ILO approximates that around 22,000 children lose their lives due to work-related incidents annually. Nonetheless, the concealed nature of much child Labour makes it challenging to procure precise data regarding the impact on children. For instance, the extent of injuries or illnesses resulting from their Labour remains undisclosed.

This underscores the urgency of eradicating child Labour entirely. Children constitute one of society's most vulnerable demographics, and those engaged in Labour confront markedly heightened vulnerability in their circumstances. Children toiling in arduous and perilous conditions endure elevated rates of sickness and injury. Their susceptibility to workplace hazards surpasses that of adults due to their tender age and developmental stage. Consequently, hazardous Labour can engender severe diseases that often manifest in adulthood, inflicting more profound and enduring harm.

Children ensnared in hazardous Labour may be compelled to work during nighttime hours, endure extended shifts, endure physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, and navigate perilous environments such as underground or underwater, at precarious heights, or in extreme temperatures. Some are tasked with operating unsafe machinery, handling heavy loads, or being exposed to hazardous substances, processes, or environmental conditions that pose grave threats to their health.

Moreover, there exists a gendered dimension to hazardous Labour or the worst forms of child Labour. For instance, girls are disproportionately burdened with demanding domestic chores and are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation, while boys are more frequently engaged in hazardous agricultural work, operating heavy machinery, or handling toxic chemicals and pesticides.
  • Long-Term Health Ramifications:
    • Children engaged in child Labour often endure enduring health repercussions that can persist into adulthood. The effects of hazardous Labour can precipitate profound and persistent health issues, which may only manifest later in life, rendering them challenging to quantify or substantiate. Conditions like cancer, infertility, and chronic back pain are among the potential long-term adverse health outcomes. Poverty exacerbates these consequences, compounded by inadequate access to effective healthcare and social security provisions.
  • Education Deprivation:
    • Child Labour frequently obstructs children's access to formal education, hindering their ability to attend school and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This deprivation limits their prospects for socio-economic advancement in the future.
  • Inter-generational Transmission:
    • Children immersed in Labour are more inclined to perpetuate the cycle of poverty by passing on similar circumstances to their offspring. The absence of educational and economic opportunities perpetuates poverty within families and communities across generations.
  • Social Marginalization:
    • Child Labourers encounter societal stigma and discrimination, impeding their integration and inclusion within society. They may encounter difficulties in forming meaningful relationships, accessing healthcare services, or participating in community engagements.

In essence, the prevalence of child Labour in India poses a significant obstacle for underprivileged children, perpetuating a cycle of poverty that deprives them of education, compromises their physical and mental well-being, and exposes them to exploitation and abuse. Effectively addressing this issue demands a multifaceted strategy encompassing education, awareness campaigns, and stringent enforcement of Labour regulations. Furthermore, it necessitates a steadfast commitment to enhancing the overall welfare of underprivileged children, thereby reducing their susceptibility to the economic and societal forces that precipitate child Labour.

Legislative Framework for Combating Child Labour in India

Child Labour laws in India:

During the 20th century, as incidents of factory hazards resulting in the loss of innocent children's lives gained widespread attention through newspaper reports, there arose a pressing need for legislative measures to curb the practice of child Labour. Today, a plethora of statutes exists to condemn and prohibit child Labour, including:
  • The Factories Act of 1948: This legislation bars the employment of children under the age of 14 in any factory, while also stipulating regulations regarding the employment of individuals aged 15 to 18.
  • The Mines Act of 1952: Enforced to safeguard children, this act prohibits individuals under the age of 18 from working in mines, recognizing the inherent dangers associated with such occupations, which have historically led to tragic accidents claiming the lives of children.
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: This law prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age in hazardous occupations delineated in a specified list. The scope of hazardous occupations was expanded in 2006 and 2008.
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: Criminalizing the procurement or employment of children in hazardous employment or bondage, this legislation imposes prison sentences as punishment. It serves as a deterrent against contravening the preceding acts by employing children for Labour.
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: Mandating free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14, this law also mandates that 25% of seats in private schools be reserved for disadvantaged and physically challenged children, ensuring equitable access to education.
  • Compulsory Education: In accordance with Article 21(A) of the Indian Constitution, it is mandated that all children aged between 6 and 14 receive education that is both free and compulsory.
  • Prohibition of Human Trafficking and Forced Labour: Article 23 of the Constitution explicitly prohibits human trafficking, forced Labour, and beggary, imposing legal consequences on offenders found in violation of these provisions.
  • Prohibition of Child Labour in Factories: Furthermore, Article 24 expressly prohibits the employment of minors under the age of 14 in hazardous factories, recognizing the potential for long-term physical and mental harm to children in such environments.
  • Prevention of Coercive Practices: Article 39(e) of the directive principles of state policy asserts that citizens should not be compelled by economic necessity to engage in occupations unsuitable for their age or physical capacity, nor should they exploit the health and strength of vulnerable individuals, including children.
  • Fundamental Duty: Article 51A(k) of the Constitution, enshrined within the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), stipulates that every individual, including parents and guardians, bears the fundamental duty of providing opportunities for education to children between the ages of 6 and 14.
  • Article 45: The State is enjoined, by Article 45, to endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they reach the age of 6 years.
  • State Responsibility to Enhance Nutrition Levels: As per Article 47, the State is mandated to elevate the standard of living, improve nutrition levels, and enhance public health.
  • Protection from Exploitation: Article 39(f) emphasizes the need to protect children from exploitation and neglect, ensuring they have the resources and opportunities to grow up in a healthy environment characterized by freedom and dignity. The State is tasked with raising standards in living conditions, food quality, and public health.
  • Child Welfare: Article 243G, in conjunction with Schedule 11, endeavors to institutionalize child care by assigning responsibilities for women and child development programs to panchayats. This includes education, family welfare, health and sanitation, and other areas relevant to child welfare.
  • Minimum Wages Act, 1948:
    Enacted in 1948, the Minimum Wages Act establishes predetermined minimum wage rates for various occupations identified by the relevant government and listed in the Act's schedule. These rates apply to adults, adolescents, and children.
  • Plantation Labour Act, 1951:
    Under the Plantation Labour Act of 1951, individuals under the age of 14 (referred to as children) or aged 15 to 18 (defined as adolescents) cannot be employed unless certified fit for work by a qualified medical professional. The Act mandates that employers are responsible for providing housing, medical care, and recreational facilities for such workers.
  • Merchant Shipping Act, 1958:
    The Merchant Shipping Act of 1958 prohibits the employment of children under 15 on ships, except under specific circumstances such as on school or training ships, family-owned ships, small domestic ships under 200 tonnes, or when employed for minimal wages under the supervision of a parent or adult relative.
  • The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966:
    Passed in 1966, this Act applies to establishments engaged in the manufacturing of beedis, cigars, or similar products, with or without the use of power. It prohibits the employment of children under 14 and restricts the working hours for those aged 14 to 18, barring work between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • The Right of Children to Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009:
    Originally incorporated into the Constitution through the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, this legislation was later enacted as a standalone law. It establishes education as a fundamental right for all children aged 6 to 14, making elementary education free and mandatory. The Act sets standards for schools and teachers, ensuring curriculum alignment with constitutional values, and includes provisions for 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of society. Oversight of its implementation falls under the purview of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
  • Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986:
    The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act of 1933 marked the initial legislative response to child Labour, paving the way for subsequent enactments. The most comprehensive legislation aimed at combating child Labour in India is the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act of 1986.

Domestic Acts related to child Labour:

Minimum Wages Act, 1948: Enacted in 1948, the Minimum Wages Act establishes predetermined minimum wage rates for various occupations identified by the relevant government and listed in the Act's schedule. These rates apply to adults, adolescents, and children.
  • Plantation Labour Act, 1951:
  • Under the Plantation Labour Act of 1951, individuals under the age of 14 (referred to as children) or aged 15 to 18 (defined as adolescents) cannot be employed unless certified fit for work by a qualified medical professional. The Act mandates that employers are responsible for providing housing, medical care, and recreational facilities for such workers.
  • Merchant Shipping Act, 1958:
  • The Merchant Shipping Act of 1958 prohibits the employment of children under 15 on ships, except under specific circumstances such as on school or training ships, family-owned ships, small domestic ships under 200 tonnes, or when employed for minimal wages under the supervision of a parent or adult relative.
  • The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966:
  • Passed in 1966, this Act applies to establishments engaged in the manufacturing of beedis, cigars, or similar products, with or without the use of power. It prohibits the employment of children under 14 and restricts the working hours for those aged 14 to 18, barring work between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • The Right of Children to Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009:
  • Originally incorporated into the Constitution through the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, this legislation was later enacted as a standalone law. It establishes education as a fundamental right for all children aged 6 to 14, making elementary education free and mandatory. The Act sets standards for schools and teachers, ensuring curriculum alignment with constitutional values, and includes provisions for 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of society. Oversight of its implementation falls under the purview of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
  • Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986:
  • The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act of 1933 marked the initial legislative response to child Labour, paving the way for subsequent enactments. The most comprehensive legislation aimed at combating child Labour in India is the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act of 1986.

Enacted based on recommendations from the Gurupadaswamy Committee, this Act standardized the definition of 'child,' addressing discrepancies found in various laws. It categorizes occupations into 'hazardous' and 'non-hazardous' to effectively prohibit and regulate child Labour. Comprising four parts and a schedule, the Act covers preliminary definitions, prohibition of child employment in specified occupations and processes, regulation of child Labour in other establishments, and miscellaneous provisions such as penalties and procedures for offenses.

Section 3 of the Act explicitly prohibits the employment of children under 14 in any occupation or process listed in the schedule. Additionally, Section 7 stipulates that a child's daily work period in any establishment must not exceed 6 hours, with prohibitions on night work between 7 pm and 8 am (Section 7(4)), and double employment (Section 7(5)). Penalties for violations are outlined in Section 14.

Key provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act of 1986 include:

  • The Act defines a "child" as an individual below the age of 14.
  • The Schedule to the Act identifies 57 occupations and 13 activities where child employment is prohibited.
  • A Technical Advisory Committee is established to recommend additions to the Schedule.
  • Jobs not explicitly prohibited by the Act are governed by its provisions (Part III).
  • Offenders found guilty of violating Section 3 face imprisonment ranging from three months to one year, along with fines ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000, or both.
  • The implementation of these provisions falls under the jurisdiction of the Central and State Governments.

Despite containing numerous beneficial provisions, the act is marred by significant shortcomings. Firstly, it does not outright abolish child Labour. Secondly, it deviates from the true spirit of the Constitution. This discrepancy is particularly evident when comparing the act's scope with the mandate of Article 24, which prohibits the employment of children under 14 altogether, while the act only pertains to hazardous occupations. Moreover, the selection of hazardous occupations for inclusion in the schedule is done selectively. For instance, the glass industry, where children often work near furnaces reaching temperatures of 1400� C, is not listed in the schedule. According to a report from the Labour Ministry, the implementation and enforcement of the act have been largely ineffective.

Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016:
The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act of 2016, enacted by the government and effective since January 1, 2016, explicitly prohibits the employment of anyone under the age of 14. Additionally, it prohibits the employment of adolescents aged 14 to 18 in hazardous jobs and processes, and regulates their working conditions where applicable. The amendment also criminalizes the employment of any child or adolescent in contravention of the Act, imposing harsher penalties for such violations. Furthermore, it empowers the competent Government to delegate necessary powers to District Magistrates and assign them responsibilities to ensure efficient implementation. To facilitate effective enforcement, State Action Plans have been disseminated to all States and Union Territories.

Hazardous occupations
Part III of India's Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 focuses on protecting children from hazardous work. A list of these prohibited occupations is provided in a schedule with two sections, A and B.

Section A of the schedule specifically bans child Labour in the following railway-related activities:
  • Transporting passengers, goods, or mail
  • Clearing ashes or working in building operations within railway premises
  • Working in railway station food establishments where vendors or employees move between platforms or trains
  • Construction work at railway stations or near railway lines
  • The port authority within the limits of any port.
  • Work relating to selling of crackers and fireworks in shops with temporary licenses
  • Abattoirs/slaughter Houses
  • Automobile workshops and garages
  • Foundries
  • Handling of taxies or inflammable substance or explosives
  • Handloom and power loom industry
  • Mines (Underground and under water) and collieries
  • Plastic units and Fiber glass workshop
  • Employment of children and domestic workers or servants
  • Employment of children in Dhaba's (roadside eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, tea shops, resorts, spas or other recreational centres
  • Diving
  • Circus
  • Caring for Elephants

Section B stipulates that no minor may be hired or allowed to work in any workshop where specific processes listed therein are conducted.
  • Electroplating;
  • Graphite powdering and incidental processing;
  • Grinding or glazing of metals;
  • Diamond cutting and polishing;
  • Extraction of slate from mines;
  • Rag picking and scavenging.
  • Processes involving exposure to excessive heat (e.g. working near the furnace) and cold;
  • Mechanised fishing;
  • Food Processing;
  • Beverage Industry;
  • Timber handling and loading;
  • Mechanical Lumbering.
  • Warehousing;
  • Processes involving exposure to free silica such as slate, pencil industry, stone grinding, slate stone mining, stone quarries, and agate industry.
  • Beedi making;
  • Carpet Weaving;
  • Cement manufacture including bagging of cement;
  • Cloth printing, dyeing and weaving;
  • Manufacture of matches, explosive and fireworks;
  • Mica cutting and splitting;
  • Shellac manufacture;
  • Soap manufacture;
  • Tanning;
  • Wool cleaning;
  • Building and construction industry;
  • Manufacture of slate pencils (including packing);
  • Manufacture of products of agates;
  • Manufacturing processes using toxic metals and substances such as lead, mercury, manganese, chromium, cadmium, benzene, pesticides and asbestos;
  • All Hazardous possess an defined in section 2(C) and dangerous operations as notified in ruler made under section 87 of the Factories Act 1948;
  • Printing (as defined in section 2(k) of the factories Act 1948;
  • Cashew and cashew nut descaling and processing;
  • Soldering process in electronic industries;
  • Incense Stick (Agar Bathi) manufacturing;
  • Automobile repairs and maintenance (namely welding lather work , dent beating and printing);
  • Brick kilns and Roof files units;
  • Cotton ginning and processing and production of hosiery goods;
  • Detergent manufacturing;
  • Fabrication workshop (ferrous and non-ferrous);
  • Gem cutting and polishing;
  • Handling of chromite's and manganese ores;
  • Jute textile manufacture and of coir making;
  • Lime kilns and manufacture of lime;
  • Lock making;
  • Manufacturing process having exposure to lead such as primary and secondary smelting, welding etc.;
  • Manufacture of glass, glass ware including bangles fluorescent tubes bulbs and other similar glass products;
  • Manufacturing of cement pipes, cement products, and other related work;
  • Manufacture of dyes and dye stuff;
  • Manufacturing or handling of pesticides and insecticides;
  • Manufacturing or processing and handling of corrosive and toxic substances, metal cleaning and photo enlarging and soldering processes in electronic industry;
  • Manufacturing of burning coal and coal briquette;
  • Manufacturing of sports goods involving to synthetic materials, chemicals and leather;
  • Moulding and processing of fiberglass and plastics;
  • Oil expelling and refinery;
  • Paper making;
  • Potteries and ceramic industry;
  • Polishing, moulding, cutting welding and manufacture of brass goods in all forms;
  • Process in agriculture where tractors, threshing and harvesting machines are used;
  • Saw mill all process;
  • Sericulture processing;
  • Skinning dyeing and process for manufacturing of leather and leather products;
  • Stone breaking and stone crushing;
  • Tobacco processing including manufacturing of tobacco, tobacco paste and handling of tobacco in any form;
  • Tyre making repairing, re-trading and graphite beneficiation;
  • Utensils making polishing and metal buffing;
  • Zari Making (all process).

Hours of Work
No child shall be obliged or allowed to engage in Labour within any establishment for a duration exceeding the specified hours (Section-7). Each day's work period shall not surpass three hours, and a child must have a break of at least one hour after every three-hour interval. Furthermore, children are prohibited from working between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. and are not permitted to work overtime (Section-7).

Any contravention of Section-3 shall incur penalties, including imprisonment ranging from three months to one year, or a fine ranging from ten thousand to twenty thousand rupees, or both. Persistent violations of Section-3 could result in imprisonment ranging from six months to two years. Other infringements of the Act may result in simple imprisonment for up to one month, a fine of up to ten thousand rupees, or both.

Case Study
On January 9, 2016, the Hyderabad police rescued over 50 children from bangle-making units in the Talab Katta area of the Old City. Out of 85 rescued individuals, 55 were children under 12 years old. They were subjected to hazardous working conditions, confined indoors, living in deplorable conditions, and inadequately fed, earning a monthly salary of Rs 2500. No evidence of child trafficking was found, as the rescued children were brought from their native villages by relatives.

Violation of Section 3 of the Child Labour (Protection & Regulation) Act, 1986 is evident, as it prohibits the employment of children in specified occupations and processes, including bangle-making units listed in Part B item 32 of the schedule. Additionally, Sections 7, 8, and 13 were violated, which pertain to maximum working hours, mandatory weekly holidays, and ensuring healthy and safe working conditions, respectively. Furthermore, this exploitation also infringes upon constitutional provisions such as the right to life and education. The tragic aspect of this case is that the children's parents sent them into such dire circumstances. Due to inadequate penalties under the Act, desired outcomes remain elusive.

This case is not isolated; the city police reported rescuing around 500 children from hazardous industries in the Old City, hailing from Bihar and Odisha in the previous year. Additionally, 13 minors aged 10 to 16 years were rescued from a bangle factory in Delhi on January 29, 2016. Similar cases abound in Indian newspapers, shedding light on the appalling conditions endured by children, ineffective implementation of Indian laws, and loopholes in punishing offenders.

International Conventions and Treaties
Initially, there was uncertainty among scholars regarding the extension of human rights to children. For example, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that "everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration..." without specifying an age qualification, leaving it ambiguous whether these rights extend to children. However, Article 4 of the UDHR has been interpreted to prohibit the exploitation of child Labour by construing "servitude" to include child Labour.

Furthermore, Articles 23 and 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights aim to ensure fair and favorable working conditions and the right to education, both of which are consistently violated globally through the prevalence of the worst forms of child Labour. In 1966, the International Covenant onEconomic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) took initial steps toward adapting human rights based on age, defining childhood as a state requiring special protection with rights distinct from those of adults. However, it was not until 1989 that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) clearly delineated the rights of children and granted them a special status separate from adults. Hence, early international legal efforts to address child Labour tended to have an abolitionist tone and were regarded as part of Labour market regulation.

Subsequently, a prioritization approach was adopted, focusing on the most abusive forms of child Labour. The International Labour Organization (ILO) thus adopted Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 1999, aiming for the immediate elimination of intolerable forms of child Labour. This convention requires signatories to colLabourate with business groups to identify hazardous forms of child Labour and implement time-bound programs for their elimination. While Conventions 138 and 182 are recognized as core ILO conventions, human rights groups have criticized them, arguing that the artificial distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous forms of child Labour serves only the interests of Labour regulations.

Child Labour in any form is detrimental and exploitative to children. According to the ILO, child Labour encompasses work performed by children under 12 years old, work by children under 15 that impedes school attendance, and work by children under 18 that poses risks to their physical or mental health. Such age-based classification is outdated and incongruous. The right to a childhood cannot be compromised by placing age barriers that imply children as young as 12 could engage in work. Fortunately, a human rights approach to child Labour was embraced by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. Such approaches not only focus on preventing harm to children but also on regulating the employment relationships in which working children find themselves, and furthermore, on children's rights to education and participation in decisions affecting their lives, including those related to their employment. This comprehensive view of child Labour as an aspect of a child's life distinguishes the human rights approach from mere Labour regulation.

However, some critics of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) argue that categorizing child Labour as a distinct category has diminished their rights and rendered them vulnerable, necessitating advocacy from adults. Conversely, proponents of the CRC contend that this classification grants children more rights with legally recognized interests tailored to their developmental stage. The Slavery Convention of 1926 and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery of 1956, which came into force in 1957, explicitly prohibit slavery-like practices under Article 1.

In contemporary discourse, child Labour has been likened to slavery-like practices due to its economic exploitation. Given that children are more susceptible than adults and often reliant on their parents, it is conceivable that when they are economically exploited, either by their parents or with their consent, the requisite level of dependency necessary for work to be deemed as slavery-like practice is often met.

In light of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Article 8(2)) and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery of 1956, Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) should be interpreted as prohibiting the exploitation of child Labour, as child Labour falls under the category of "servitude." Additionally, child Labour is considered a form of "forced or compulsory Labour" under Article 8(3) of the ICCPR. The obligations of state parties under Article 8 are immediate and absolute, requiring them to prevent private entities from violating child Labour norms. Article 24 of the ICCPR obligates states to protect children from economic exploitation.

International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions:
Established in 1919, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency dedicated to setting Labour standards, formulating policies, and developing programs to promote decent work for all individuals worldwide. Representing 187 member States, the ILO brings together governments, employers, and workers' representatives to achieve its objectives. A primary mechanism for its activities is the establishment of International Labour Standards through Conventions and Recommendations. Among these, the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) are two Core Conventions specifically addressing child Labour, both of which have been ratified by India.

The Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138):
In June 1976, the Minimum Age Convention (No. 138), adopted in 1973, came into effect. By mandating nations to establish a minimum age for entry into work or employment and to implement national strategies for eradicating child Labour, the Convention aims to effectively eliminate child Labour. To achieve this goal, the Convention requires State Parties to stipulate a minimum age for employment.

While the Convention sets the minimum age at 15, State Parties may establish it at 14 for a limited duration. Furthermore, the Convention allows for younger children (under 15) to engage in light work. Monitoring and oversight of the Convention's implementation are carried out by the Committee of Experts. State Parties are required to submit progress reports every three years, outlining their efforts in implementing the Convention.

One of the 15 fundamental conventions covered by the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) regulations is the Minimum Age Convention. Recommendation No. 146 complements Convention No. 138 by highlighting the importance of national plans and policies that address poverty alleviation, the promotion of decent employment opportunities for adults to reduce reliance on child Labour, free and compulsory education, vocational training, the expansion of social security, birth registration systems, and appropriate facilities for the protection of working children and adolescents.

  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182):
  • On June 17, 1999, the International Labour Organization (ILO) introduced Convention 182 in Geneva, and it received overwhelming approval from all of the ILO's members.
  • In an effort to intensify the fight against child Labour, Convention 182 identifies the five most egregious forms of Labour that must be eradicated, which include:
    • Engaging in slavery or related practices, such as the trafficking, buying, or using of minors as serfs or bonded Labourers;
    • Enforcing coercive or forced Labour, which involves the conscription of minors into armed conflict;
    • The exploitation of minors for prostitution, pornography production, or participation in pornographic performances;
    • The involvement, recruitment, or use of minors in illegal activities, particularly in drug manufacturing or trafficking;
    • Employment that poses a threat to children's health, safety, or morals due to the nature of the work or the conditions under which it is carried out.
  • In 1992, the ILO established the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) to assist member states in halting these most harmful forms of employment. IPEC identifies instances of child Labour violations where victims can receive assistance, and specific remedies are provided for each situation.
  • Recommendation No. 190 suggests that any definition of 'hazardous work' should encompass employment that exposes children to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, work performed underground, underwater, at great heights, or in confined spaces, operation of hazardous machinery, equipment, or tools; carrying heavy loads; exposure to dangerous substances, agents, or processes; or exposure to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations that pose health risks.

Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959:
The Geneva Declaration, a landmark document established by the League of Nations in 1924, was the initial acknowledgment of children's rights and the obligations of adults towards children. With the formation of the United Nations (UN) after World War II, there was a need to build upon the Geneva Declaration in light of the evolving understanding of rights following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Recognizing the imperative to ensure the best for children, a subsequent Declaration of the Rights of the Child was drafted. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) was unanimously endorsed by all 78 members of the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1959, through Resolution 1386 (XIV). This declaration enshrines several fundamental principles, including:
  • Protection from discrimination based on race, religion, or nationality.
  • Entitlement to additional safeguards for a child's social, emotional, and physical development.
  • The right to know one's name and country of origin.
  • Access to a nutritious diet, adequate housing, and healthcare.
  • Entitlement to special education and care in cases of physical or mental disabilities.
  • Access to free play and education.
  • Priority access to assistance in all circumstances.
  • Protection from all forms of abuse, cruelty, and exploitation.
  • The right to be nurtured in an environment fostering compassion, tolerance, intercultural understanding, and global solidarity.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1989:
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child marks the first instance of a legally binding international instrument encompassing a comprehensive array of human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights for children. This Convention presents a holistic perspective of the child, recognizing them as individuals and integral members of families and communities, endowed with rights and responsibilities commensurate with their age and developmental stage. By embracing children's rights in this manner, the Convention underscores the importance of addressing the entirety of a child's needs. Article 32 of the Convention addresses the economic exploitation of children, prohibiting work that poses hazards, interferes with education, or jeopardizes a child's health or holistic development.

Further rights accorded to children include the entitlement "to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health" and the eradication of harmful traditional practices affecting children's health (Article 24), the right "to a standard of living adequate for the child's development in all aspects" with governments obligated to support parents as necessary (Article 27), and the right "to rest, leisure, play, and recreational activities suitable to the child's age." Refugee children are also ensured the same rights as others under Article 22.

Article 6 obligates governments to ensure children's survival and development to the fullest extent possible, while Article 11 urges the prevention of illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad. Under Article 19, governments are mandated to safeguard children from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including sexual abuse, and provide special protection and assistance to those deprived of a family environment under Article 20. Article 35 requires action to prevent child trafficking, while Articles 36 and 39 demand protection against other forms of exploitation and assistance for recovery from exploitation, neglect, or abuse.

Crucial provisions for working children include Article 3, emphasizing decisions must prioritize a child's best interests, and Article 12, which advocates for considering a child's views, taking into account their age and maturity.

Additionally, other pertinent conventions include the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, both adopted in May 2000.

Legal age for working in India
Except for certain family-based activities, it is unlawful to employ minors under the age of 14 for any type of work, punishable by a maximum imprisonment of two years. Adolescents aged 14 to 18 are prohibited from engaging in hazardous occupations. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill of 2012 permits the punishment of both parents and the employed child.

Children Under 14 Years of Age:
Children below 14 years old are prohibited from working in any occupation or process and cannot be hired. However, this restriction does not apply if a child assists their family or family business in non-hazardous activities after school or during breaks. Family members include parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
  • Moreover, children under 14 may work as artists in the audio-visual entertainment industry, subject to certain restrictions and safety measures, excluding circus performances.
Adolescents - Aged 14 to 18: Adolescents are allowed to engage in non-hazardous activities under the Child Labour (Prevention and Regulation) Amendment Act, provided the employer meets specific requirements:
  • The work schedule must not exceed three hours per segment, with an hour-long break after three hours of work.
  • Adolescents may work up to six hours per day, excluding breaks, and are prohibited from working from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
  • They must not be compelled to work extra hours or in more than one establishment simultaneously.
  • Adolescents are entitled to a day off each week.
Employment Regulations for Adolescents:
Employers hiring adolescents must maintain a register containing:
  • Name and birthdate of each employed teenager.
  • Work hours and rest periods.
  • Nature of the employment.
Additionally, the business owner must provide the local inspector with the following information within 30 days of hiring or allowing an adolescent to work:
  • Business name and location.
  • Responsible person's name.
  • Correspondence address.
  • Type of work conducted.

Government Initiatives and Programes

Policies Against Child Labour in India

The issue of child Labour stands as a significant challenge for the nation. The government has consistently shown a strong commitment to addressing this problem, actively implementing various measures to combat it.
  • National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR):
    Established in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) operates as a statutory body within the administrative oversight of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India. It was created with the aim of ensuring alignment of all laws, policies, programs, and administrative mechanisms with the perspectives on child rights enshrined in both the Constitution of India and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • National Policy on Child Labour:
    Declared in August 1987, the National Policy on Child Labour outlines an action plan for addressing the issue of child Labour. The policy includes provisions for enacting legislative measures, such as the enactment of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, as well as fostering the convergence of general development programs to benefit children wherever possible. Additionally, it establishes a Core Group to oversee the convergence of various welfare schemes aimed at uplifting families affected by child Labour. The policy also entails project-based initiatives focused on the welfare of working children in areas with high concentrations of child Labour.
  • National Child Labour Project Scheme:
    Initiated in 1988, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) scheme aims to rehabilitate children engaged in hazardous occupations and processes. The scheme follows a sequential approach, prioritizing the rehabilitation of children working in dangerous conditions. Guidelines are issued by the government for the implementation of the scheme, with ongoing efforts to make progressive improvements to achieve its objectives.
  • National Child Protection Policy:
    The Child Protection Policy is designed to safeguard children in the country from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. It establishes a framework for institutions and organizations, including both public and private sectors, to understand and fulfill their responsibilities in protecting children and promoting their welfare. This policy applies to all entities, including corporate entities and media houses, aiming to ensure the collective well-being of children.

  • Ministry of Labour and Employment:
    • Develops national policies, initiatives, and strategies to combat child Labour.
    • Oversees the enforcement of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and other relevant Labour laws pertaining to child Labour.
    • Conducts inspections, inquiries, and monitoring activities to ensure adherence to child Labour regulations across industries and establishments.
  • Ministry of Women and Child Development:
    • Designs policies and schemes aimed at the welfare, protection, and rehabilitation of children, including those engaged in child Labour.
    • Executes the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) and additional initiatives to prevent and address child Labour and exploitation.
    • Collaborates with other ministries and stakeholders to tackle underlying causes of child Labour, such as poverty, lack of education, and social marginalization.
  • National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR):
    • Monitors and assesses the implementation of laws and policies concerning child rights, including measures against child Labour.
    • Investigates complaints concerning violations of child rights, including incidents of child Labour, and recommends corrective measures.
    • Raises awareness about issues pertaining to child rights and advocates for policy reforms to safeguard children from exploitation and harm.
  • State Governments and District Authorities:
    • Implement and enforce child Labour laws and policies at the state and district levels.
    • Carry out inspections, raids, and rescue operations to identify and liberate child Labourers from exploitative working conditions.
    • Offer rehabilitation and support services to rescued child Labourers, including access to education, healthcare, and vocational training.
  • Labour Departments and Inspectorates:
    • Carry out inspections of factories, establishments, and workplaces to verify compliance with child Labour legislation and standards.
    • Investigate reports of child Labour infractions and pursue legal measures against employers and violators.
    • Enhance awareness among employers, employees, and the wider community regarding the prohibition and repercussions of engaging children in hazardous jobs and activities.
  • Education Departments:
    • Advocate for the universal provision of quality education and the enrollment of all children in schools, as outlined in initiatives like the Right to Education Act.
    • Identify and reintegrate children who are not attending school, including those involved in child Labour, into the mainstream educational system through transitional programs, special educational institutions, and alternative learning schemes.
  • Law Enforcement Agencies:
    • Collaborate with Labour departments, child protection entities, and other relevant bodies to combat child Labour and bring perpetrators to justice.
    • Conduct raids, rescue missions, and inquiries to apprehend individuals implicated in employing children in unsafe and exploitative Labour practices.

Recommendation committees related to child Labour

Gurupada Swamy Committee
The Government formed the Gurupada Swamy Committee in 1979 to investigate and propose solutions for the issue of child Labour. After thorough examination, the Committee presented comprehensive recommendations. It recognized that eradicating child Labour solely through legal measures would be impractical due to prevailing poverty, making complete elimination unattainable. The Committee advocated for prohibiting child Labour in hazardous occupations while regulating and enhancing working conditions in other sectors. It suggested employing diverse policy approaches to address the complexities of child Labour. Subsequently, based on these recommendations, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986. This legislation imposes restrictions on working conditions in various industries and prohibits child employment in hazardous occupations.
 National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
Established in March 2007 under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) operates as a statutory body under the jurisdiction of the Government of India, specifically the Ministry of Women & Child Development. Its primary objective is to ensure that all laws, policies, programs, and administrative mechanisms align with the child rights framework outlined in the Indian Constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

National plans and schemes concerning child Labour

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017
Following extensive deliberation, the Government of India enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017. These rules establish a detailed and comprehensive framework for the prevention, prohibition, rescue, and rehabilitation of child and adolescent workers. Specific provisions have been incorporated to address concerns regarding assistance within families, family businesses, and the definition of family concerning children. The regulations restrict a child's work to no more than five times a day, with a maximum of three hours without a break during school hours or between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. Furthermore, they provide safeguards for artists authorized to work under the Act concerning their working conditions and hours. To ensure effective implementation and compliance with the Act's provisions, the rules outline the roles and responsibilities of enforcement authorities explicitly.

Right to Education Act of 2009
In line with Article 21A of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to free and compulsory education for children between the ages of 6 and 14, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, commonly known as the Right to Education Act (RTE), on August 4, 2009.

Key provisions of the act include:
  • Mandating free and compulsory education for all Indian children aged six to fourteen;
  • Prohibiting the retention, expulsion, or mandatory passage of students before completion of primary school;
  • Issuing a certificate upon completion of elementary education;
  • Specifying a prescribed student-to-teacher ratio;
  • Applying to all regions of India except Jammu and Kashmir;
  • Reserving 25% of seats in class one for economically disadvantaged communities in private institutions;
  • Imposing standards for improving educational quality;
  • Sharing the financial burden between the state and Central Government.

National Child Labour Policy
The National Policy on Child Labour, established in August 1987, outlines an action plan to combat child labour. It emphasizes a legislative approach and advocates for the coordination of general development programs to benefit children. In areas with a high prevalence of child labour, targeted initiatives are proposed to enhance the well-being of working children. Launched in 1988 as part of this policy, the National Child Labour Project aims to rehabilitate child labourers. The program adopts a phased approach, initially focusing on the rehabilitation of children engaged in hazardous occupations and activities. According to the scheme, children involved in hazardous occupations or processes must be removed from such work and placed in specialized schools until they can be integrated into the mainstream educational system. Furthermore, it mandates the identification of other professions and activities detrimental to the health and safety of children.

National Plan of Action for Children, 2005
The National Plan of Action for Children, formulated in 2005, commits to upholding the rights of all children up to the age of 18. It seeks to ensure that every child can fulfill their innate potential and develop into a healthy, productive citizen by providing necessary safeguards and a conducive environment for their survival, growth, development, and protection. This requires engagement with families, communities, the voluntary sector, civil society, and children themselves, as well as collective commitment and action from all levels and sectors of government.

Schemes of the department of education

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan:
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is an initiative aimed at ensuring universal elementary education. It strives to provide locally supported, high-quality education to all children, fostering their holistic development. Conceived by former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the program set a goal to educate every child aged 6 to 14 by 2010.

Midday Meal Scheme:
The Midday Meal Scheme is an Indian school nutrition program designed to enhance the health of students nationwide. It offers free meals to elementary and upper primary students in various educational institutions, including government, government-aided, and local body schools, as well as those funded by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and National Child Labour Project schools overseen by the Ministry of Labour. Originating in Tamil Nadu, the scheme is the largest of its kind globally, benefiting 120 million children across more than 1.27 million schools and Education Guarantee Scheme sites.

Schemes of the Ministry of Women & Child Development

Integrated Child Protection Scheme
Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) is a centrally supported program introduced by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2009�2010. ICPS aims to create a secure and nurturing environment for children in need of care and protection. It seeks to enhance outreach during emergencies, improve institutional and community-based care, offer counseling and support services, and institutionalize essential services at the national, regional, state, and district levels.

Balika Samridhi Yojana
Balika Samridhi Yojana was launched by the Central Government in 1997 as part of its initiative for women and child development. This scheme aims to empower female children across the nation, focusing on their education and maternal well-being. It specifically targets impoverished girl children in both urban and rural areas, providing support for their education and maternity needs.

Other social security schemes

RashtriyaSwasthya Bima Yojana:
RashtriyaSwasthya Bima Yojana, also known as the "National Health Insurance Programme," is a government initiative aimed at providing health insurance to economically disadvantaged individuals in India. This program specifically targets unorganized sector workers who are classified as Below Poverty Line (BPL), extending health insurance coverage to them and their families.

National Family Benefit Scheme
The National Family Benefit Scheme, established by the Central Government, is designed to offer financial assistance to families in distress due to the sudden demise of their primary breadwinner. This scheme aims to provide a one-time lump sum payment to eligible families living below the poverty line. Essentially, it serves as a safety net for such families, ensuring financial support during times of crisis to help them regain stability.

Suggestions for government

  • Poverty Alleviation:
    • The correlation between poverty and child Labour is unmistakable. Efforts to eliminate poverty are crucial given the widening gap between the affluent and the impoverished. Inclusive development strategies should involve active participation from the economically disadvantaged. Policies that prioritize the needs of the poor must be formulated and implemented with strong political determination.
  • Community Engagement:
    • There is a pressing need to raise public awareness about the importance of community involvement in promoting school enrollment. Education plays a pivotal role in a child's cognitive, emotional, and social development, yet child Labour often hinders educational attainment significantly. Creating an environment where the community collectively rejects any form of child Labour is imperative. To empower impoverished parents to prioritize their children's education, efforts must be made to educate and mobilize them.
  • Local Governance:
    • Implementation Local governance bodies play a crucial role in ensuring that policies, programs, and legislation safeguard the rights and interests of children. Gram Panchayats can effectively identify projects within their regions and allocate employment opportunities to the underprivileged. Furthermore, they can ensure children are engaged in decision-making processes that affect their lives. Establishing community monitoring systems through active participation in Gram Sabha meetings is essential.

Case Laws in relation to child Labour

Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India [ 1984 AIR 802]

Facts of the case: This public interest litigation ("PIL") case was filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution before the Supreme Court of India ("Court"), petitioning for the end of child labour in Uttar Pradesh ("UP"). A court-appointed committee found that many children were kidnapped from Bihar and exploited in UP's carpet industry, experiencing physical abuse and being employed at an age under 14. The court emphasised the importance of protecting children's rights to education, health, and development for India's progress as a democracy.

Judgement: While acknowledging that economic necessity cannot immediately abolish child labour, the court directed the respective State Governments of UP and Bihar to take pragmatic steps to protect and promote the rights of children. The Court referred to various fundamental rights and directive principles of the Indian Constitution, including Article 21 (the right to life and personal liberty), Article 24 (prohibiting employment of children below 14 years in hazardous industries), Article 39 (e) and (f) (prohibiting citizens from being forced into unsuited vocations and obligating the state to protect children from exploitation), and Article 45 (mandating free compulsory education for all children below 14 years). The Court also cited India's obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Court ordered both states to frame policies progressively eliminating the employment of children below 14 years, provide compulsory education, ensure nutrient-rich foods, and administer periodic health check-ups, incorporating measures from an earlier case of M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. The Court's decision required that regular progress reports be submitted to the Court's Registry to ensure the implementation of the ruling. Additionally, this case, along with other relevant public interest litigation cases, led to the formation of the National Child Rights Commission by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in 2006. This new Commission was responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and overseeing the provision of free primary education to all children in the country as well as the protection of children from economic exploitation.

Significance of the case: This case, together with other public interest litigation cases and child labour eradication campaigns, has contributed to increasing awareness of the issue of child labour and bringing it to the government's attention. The government has taken steps towards the formal abolition of child labour and initiatives have been implemented to eradicate it, particularly in the field of education. As a result, the use of child labour in the carpet industry has decreased, but there are still millions of children who are being exploited in the labour market in India. Therefore, stronger and more effective protections for children's rights are urgently needed.

Effectiveness of the Judgement: The U.P. Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India judgement was a crucial turning point in the fight against bonded labour and exploitation of workers in India. This landmark judgement highlighted the pervasive and severe nature of the issue and directed the government to take urgent and necessary measures to identify and release bonded labourers from their bondage. This judgement led to several changes in various laws and policies related to labour rights and protections, including the strengthening of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and the creation of committees and commissions to monitor and address the issue of bonded labour, along with laying down the guidelines for rehabilitation of bonded labourers, thus ensuring their successful reintegration into society.

Sheela Barse Vs Secretary, Children Aid Society and Others [ 1987 AIR 656]:

Facts of the case: The appellant initially filed a writ petition before the High Court of Bombay ("High Court") regarding the working of the New Observation Home managed by the Children's Aid Society in Mankhurd. The appellant alleged that the children residing in the home were being forced to work without pay and were engaged in hazardous employment. The appellant also claimed that the Society had assigned the work to private entrepreneurs without making any payment. The High Court passed a judgement giving some directions to the authorities.

However, the appellant maintained that the High Court failed to consider many of her contentions, and the directions given were inadequate. The Children's Aid Society is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and treated as a Public Trust under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra State is the ex-officio President of the Society, and the Minister for Social Welfare is the Vice-President of the Governing Council. The Society receives grants from the State and operates a Remand Home at Umerkhadi within Bombay, which is now run as an Observation Home under the provisions of the Bombay Children's Act, 1948. The appellant requested stronger action to be taken to ensure that the children's rights were protected and that they were not being exploited for financial gain.

Judgement: The appellant later filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India against the judgement of the High Court. The Supreme Court's judgement expressed concern for the future of the country's children. The Supreme Court stated that officers at different levels must be trained to properly handle the situations they are tasked with. Probation officers and Judicial officers must have the necessary knowledge to handle juvenile cases. Further, the children should not be kept in observation homes for long periods and should be kept occupied in activities that promote adaptability and self-confidence. The Supreme Court also ruled that the respondent society should be treated as a state under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution. The employment of children in observation homes without remuneration is not illegal. Finally, the State of Maharashtra was directed to enforce the law and fulfil its constitutional obligations.

Significance of the case: Ensuring the proper care and development of children is crucial for any country as they are the future citizens. Although some children may engage in unlawful activities, they should be treated with special care and provided with appropriate training to become responsible and law-abiding citizens. This responsibility lies with the higher authorities who must create laws that protect the rights of children who commit crimes and focus on their development. The Indian government has taken steps to improve the lives of such children, including implementing provisions outlined in international charters such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration of Child Rights. The signatory countries must provide proper facilities for counselling, training, and corrective measures to rehabilitate children in Observation Homes

Effectiveness of the judgement: The judgement was highly effective in bringing attention to the issue of custodial violence and abuse of children, and it resulted in significant changes in laws and policies related to the treatment of children in these institutions. The Supreme Court directed the government to take measures to ensure that the rights and welfare of children in juvenile homes and observation homes were protected and that they were not subjected to any form of violence or abuse.

The judgement also led to the creation of several committees and commissions to monitor and address the issue of custodial violence and abuse of children. The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was amended to include stronger provisions for the protection of the rights and welfare of children in these institutions.

M. C. Mehta Vs State of Tamil Nadu [(1996) 6 SCC 756]:
  • Facts of the case:
    An advocate filed a plea in Supreme Court alleging that the constitutional right of children was being severely violated in contradiction to Article 24 of the Indian Constitution. This article prohibits any child under 14 years of age from working in factories, mines, or any hazardous employment. This case arose out of a public interest litigation filed by an advocate, M.C. Mehta in the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, in respect of the employment of children in the match industry in Sivakasi.

    The court acknowledged that child labour is a significant issue in India and reviewed the history of child labour legislation in the country. In a prior case in 1991, the Supreme Court had provided directives on how to enhance the quality of life of children employed in Sivakasi factories.
  • Judgement:
    The Supreme Court of India issued directions to the State Governments to prevent child labour and protect the rights of children. The State Governments are required to conduct surveys to identify the types of child labour in their states, with priority given to the most hazardous employment. Employers found violating the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, were to pay compensation of Rs 20,000 per child and inspectors will ensure compliance. To rehabilitate child labourers, a Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund was ordered to be established at the district or area level. The fund will provide financial assistance to families to enable children to withdraw from work and pursue education.

    If an adult member cannot find employment, the government will deposit Rs 25,000 per month into the fund. The child's employment will be terminated if they are unable to attend school due to work requirements. Children employed in nonhazardous jobs will have a limited working day of four to six hours with at least two hours of education provided each day. Employers will bear the cost of education, and inspectors will enforce compliance. The penal provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, will be used to enforce the prohibition of child labour in hazardous jobs.
  • Significance of the case: The Supreme Court acknowledged that child labour was not limited to Sivakasi anymore and had become a nationwide issue in India, despite various laws enacted over the past 50 years. Poverty was recognized as a fundamental cause of child labour, and the court stated that without ensuring an alternative source of income for families, the problem of child labour could not be effectively addressed.
  • Effectiveness of the Judgement:
    The judgement was highly effective in bringing attention to the issue of industrial pollution and its impact on the environment and public health. The Supreme Court directed the closure of tanneries that were not complying with environmental regulations and ordered the creation of a committee to oversee the implementation of environmental laws and regulations. The judgement also led to the strengthening of environmental laws and regulations in India, including the formation of the National Green Tribunal to handle environmental disputes and the amendment of several environmental laws to make them more stringent.

Labourers work on Salal hydro-electric project v. State of Jammu & Kashmir and Others (1983)
In the case of Labourers working on Salal hydro-electric project v. State of Jammu & Kashmir and Others (1983), Justices P. N. Bhagwati and R. B. Misra ruled that no child below the age of 14 should be employed by any contractor or subcontractor on factories within the projects. Immediate cessation of such employment by any contractor or subcontractor using underage Labour was mandated, along with the submission of a summary report regarding punitive measures.

People's Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1982)
In People's Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1982), it was alleged that a few minors under 14 were employed on the Asiad Project in Delhi. Bhagwati J. ruled that despite the construction industry not being listed in the schedule of the Employment of Children Act (1938), minors should not be engaged in construction work due to its hazardous nature. The State Government was urged to take prompt action to include construction work under the Act to ensure compliance with Article 24.

Krishnaraj v. The Principal Secretary (2016)
In Krishnaraj v. The Principal Secretary (2016), the Madras High Court underscored the significance of the mid-day meal program in curbing child Labour. It emphasized colLabouration between the Tamil Nadu Government, the Department of Social Welfare, and Nutritious Meal Programs to establish a unified wage system for those with lower educational qualifications. The scheme aimed to support the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and address issues like child Labour, aligning with the objectives of Article 24.

TMA Pai Foundation v. Union of India (2002)
In TMA Pai Foundation v. Union of India (2002), the Supreme Court affirmed parents' fundamental responsibility to provide their children with educational opportunities. The passage of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 further solidified this advancement, recognizing education as a fundamental right for all children aged 6 to 14.

Unni Krishnan Vs Andhra Pradesh
In Unni Krishnan Vs Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court ruled that children up to the age of 14 have a fundamental right to free education.

Progress and Achievements in Combating Child Labour laws in India
Progress in Child Labour Laws:
  • Legislative Reforms:
    India has implemented numerous laws and amendments aimed at prohibiting and regulating child Labour. The enactment of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, alongside other Labour statutes, establishes a legal framework for addressing issues related to child Labour practices.
  • Ratification of International Conventions:
    India has ratified several international conventions concerning child Labour, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and various International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. This underscores the nation's dedication to upholding child rights and Labour standards on a global scale.
  • National Policy Framework:
    The National Policy on Child Labour, revised in 2016, offers a comprehensive structure for preventing, eliminating, and rehabilitating child Labourers. It emphasizes the significance of education, social safeguards, and the coordination of services in combating child Labour.
  • Education Initiatives:
    Initiatives aimed at enhancing educational access have contributed significantly to the reduction of child Labour. The Right to Education Act, 2009, guarantees free and compulsory schooling for children aged 6 to 14, ensuring that every child has the opportunity for education.
  • Social Welfare Schemes: Government programs like the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) offer supportive services such as nutrition, healthcare, education, and vocational training to rescued child Labourers and those vulnerable to exploitation.
  • Rescue and Rehabilitation: Government bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) carry out rescue operations to identify and extract child Labourers from exploitative work environments. Rescued children receive rehabilitation and support services to aid their reintegration into society and access education and livelihood opportunities.
  • Awareness and Advocacy: Awareness campaigns, advocacy endeavors, and community mobilization efforts have heightened awareness regarding the detrimental impacts of child Labour and the significance of safeguarding child rights. Civil society groups, media outlets, and public figures play pivotal roles in advocating for policy changes and societal shifts.
  • Enforcement and Prosecution: Enhanced enforcement of child Labour laws, coupled with strict penalties for violators, has served as a deterrent against child Labour practices. Law enforcement agencies conduct inspections, raids, and investigations to identify and prosecute individuals and establishments engaged in employing children in hazardous and exploitative Labour.

Solutions to the Issue of Child Labour in India
Addressing the issue of child Labour in India necessitates a holistic approach involving diverse stakeholders.
  • Strengthening Legislative Framework: Enhance and enforce existing legislation, like the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, to ensure comprehensive safeguarding of children and impose stricter penalties on violators. Amendments should be in line with global standards.
  • Access to Quality Education: Guarantee universal access to free and high-quality education for all children. Implement and uphold the Right to Education Act, focusing on reducing dropout rates and boosting school enrollment.
  • Poverty Alleviation: Address the underlying causes of child Labour by implementing poverty alleviation initiatives, offering economic assistance to impoverished families, and fostering livelihood opportunities for parents.
  • Awareness and Sensitization: Launch extensive awareness campaigns aimed at parents, communities, and employers to educate them about the adverse impacts of child Labour on children's physical, mental, and educational well-being.
  • Rehabilitation and Social Protection: Develop and execute comprehensive rehabilitation programs for rescued child Labourers, encompassing access to education, vocational training, healthcare, and psychological assistance. Establish social protection schemes to shield vulnerable families and prevent children from entering the Labour force.
  • International Cooperation: Collaborate with international bodies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF to access expertise, technical aid, and financial support in effectively combating child Labour.
  • Empowering Local Communities: Engage local communities, including parents, educators, and community leaders, in the prevention of child Labour. Empower them to identify and report instances of child Labour and provide assistance for rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.

Gaps and Challenges in the Current System
Gaps and Challenges
There are several gaps and challenges in the current system of child labour laws in India.
  1. Weak Enforcement Mechanisms:
    • Inadequate resources and capacity within government agencies for monitoring, inspection, and enforcement of child labour laws.
    • Limited coordination between different government departments and agencies responsible for addressing child labour issues.
  2. Informal and Unregulated Sectors:
    • Many child labourers are engaged in informal and unregulated sectors of the economy, where enforcement of labour laws is challenging.
    • Lack of visibility and oversight in sectors such as agriculture, domestic work, and small-scale industries makes it difficult to detect and address child labour practices.
  3. Poverty and Economic Factors:
    • Persistent poverty and economic inequality contribute to the prevalence of child labour, as families often rely on children's income to supplement household earnings.
    • Lack of access to affordable education, healthcare, and social protection exacerbates vulnerability to child labour among marginalized communities.
  4. Social and Cultural Norms:
    • Deep-rooted social norms and cultural practices, such as caste-based occupations and intergenerational transmission of labour, perpetuate the acceptance of child labour in certain communities.
    • Gender norms and stereotypes may also result in differential treatment of boys and girls in terms of access to education and opportunities, leading to higher rates of child labour among girls.
  5. Lack of Comprehensive Rehabilitation:
    • Limited availability and accessibility of rehabilitation and support services for rescued child labourers, including education, vocational training, healthcare, and psychosocial support.
    • Insufficient investment in long-term rehabilitation and reintegration programs to address the root causes of child labour and break the cycle of poverty.
  6. Legal Loopholes and Implementation Challenges:
    • Loopholes in existing child labour laws, such as exemptions for family-based enterprises and ambiguous definitions of hazardous work, allow for exploitation of children in certain contexts.
    • Delays in legal proceedings and challenges in obtaining evidence hinder the prosecution of offenders, leading to impunity for those engaging in child labour practices.
  7. Migration and Trafficking:
    • Internal and cross-border migration for labour purposes, as well as trafficking of children for labour exploitation, pose significant challenges for addressing child labour.
    • Lack of effective mechanisms for monitoring and regulating migration and trafficking exacerbates the vulnerability of children to exploitation and abuse.

Short Comings of the Current Indian Laws and Policies:
Despite the presence of laws and policies, child labour remains a prevalent issue in India.

Some of the shortcomings in the current Indian laws and policies include:

  • Poor enforcement: One of the main shortcomings of Indian laws and policies is the lack of effective enforcement. Many industries that employ child labourers are in the informal sector, making it difficult to monitor and enforce the laws. As a result, many children continue to work in hazardous and exploitative conditions without any repercussions for their employers.
  • Weak penalties: The penalties for violating child labour laws in India are often not severe enough to act as a deterrent. This encourages some employers to continue exploiting child labour. Moreover, in many cases, the perpetrators of child labour violations are not held accountable, and even when they are, the punishment is often minimal.
  • Limited coverage: The laws and policies on child labour in India apply only to specific sectors, such as hazardous industries and factories. This leaves many other industries, such as agriculture and domestic work, largely unregulated. Moreover, the laws do not address the root causes of child labour, such as poverty and lack of education.
  • Inadequate social protection measures: The lack of social protection measures, such as access to education, healthcare, and social welfare programs, also contributes to the prevalence of child labour in India. Children from poor and marginalized communities often have limited access to these basic services, forcing them to work to support their families.

International Scenario
According to the recent Global Report on Child Labour by the ILO, the number of economically active children aged 5-14 worldwide was 191 million in 2004, reflecting a decrease of 9.6% from 211 million in 2000. Of these, 64% were concentrated in the Asia Pacific region, with 26% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 3% in Latin American and Caribbean countries, and 7% in other areas.

Approximately 70% of working children were employed in the agricultural sector, 22% in services, and 9% in industries such as mining, construction, and manufacturing. There was a significant decline of 33% in the number of children engaged in hazardous occupations within the 5-14 age group. Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a notable reduction in child Labour, with numbers decreasing from 17.4 million in 2000 to 5.7 million in 2004, marking a 67% decline.

Regarding the activity rate, which denotes the proportion of economically active children within their age cohort, Latin America and the Caribbean have witnessed a notable decline from 16.1% to 5.1%. Globally, the average activity rate for children aged 5-14 stands at 15.8%. Sub-Saharan Africa exhibits a rate of 26.4%, while the Asia-Pacific region records 18.8%. Interestingly, India's activity rate for children in this age group was 5% as per the 2001 Census, a decrease from 5.7% in 1991.

Another ILO report indicates that the worldwide count of economically active children aged 5-14 was nearly 191 million in 2004, equating to a work participation rate of 15.8%. Approximately 38.7% of the global child Labour population is engaged in hazardous work. The largest concentration of child workers, totaling 122 million or 64%, is found in Asia and the Pacific, with India contributing significantly to this figure.

Over a four-year period from 2000 to 2004, global child Labour decreased by 11%, with hazardous work among children decreasing by 26%. The decline was even more pronounced (33%) for children aged 5-14 engaged in hazardous work. The trend globally indicates a decline, with more hazardous and vulnerable work types experiencing faster reductions.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of working children decreased by two-thirds over the same four-year period, resulting in a child work participation rate of 5%. Additionally, India's activity rate for children in this age group was 5%, down from 5.7% in 1991, as per the 2001 Census. Sub-Saharan Africa has shown the least progress, with persistently high rates of population growth, HIV/AIDS infection, and child Labour. The ILO's Global Report underscores that political determination, efficient resource allocation, and appropriate policy decisions can significantly contribute to the eradication of child Labour worldwide.

What more should be done to Address the issue?
  • Strengthening Legal Framework and Enforcement:
    • Governments should enact and revise laws prohibiting and regulating child Labour in accordance with international standards and agreements.
    • They should ensure effective implementation and enforcement of these laws by allocating adequate resources, enhancing capacity, fostering coordination, maintaining data, ensuring accountability, and demonstrating political commitment.
    • Penalties for breaching child Labour laws should be severe and consistent.
  • Providing Social Protection and Economic Support:
    • Authorities should offer comprehensive social protection and economic assistance to impoverished and vulnerable families to discourage reliance on child Labour as a coping mechanism.
    • This could involve regular cash transfers, subsidies, pensions, health insurance, food security measures, etc.
    • Governments should also facilitate access to credit, savings, microfinance, and other livelihood opportunities for economically disadvantaged households.
  • Ensuring Universal and Quality Education:
    • Governments must ensure universal access to free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14, as mandated by the Right to Education Act 2009 and Article 21A of the Constitution.
    • Efforts should be made to enhance the quality, relevance, safety, and inclusivity of education by providing adequate infrastructure, trained teachers, suitable curriculum, learning materials, scholarships, etc.
    • Authorities should also track and provide support to children who drop out or are not enrolled in school, offering bridge education, vocational training, or alternative learning opportunities.
  • Raising Awareness and Mobilizing Action:
    • Governments should collaborate with civil society organizations, media outlets, corporations, and the public to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of child Labour and the importance of protecting child rights.
    • They should mobilize action and support for initiatives against child Labour by establishing platforms, conducting campaigns, forming networks, building coalitions, etc.
    • The potential role of local governing bodies, such as Panchayats, should be explored for raising awareness at the grassroots level.
  • Responding to Emergencies and Crises:
    • Authorities should be prepared to address emergencies and crises that could exacerbate the risk of child Labour, such as conflicts, natural disasters, pandemics, or economic downturns.
    • They should provide humanitarian aid and protection to affected children and families, including access to food, water, shelter, healthcare, psychosocial support, etc.
    • Measures should be taken to ensure the continuity of education and social protection services during and after such crises.
Poverty stands as a significant contributor to this issue, underscoring that enforcement efforts alone cannot resolve it. The Government has placed considerable emphasis on rehabilitating these children and improving the economic circumstances of their families.

The battle against child Labour in India has made notable strides, bolstered by legislative frameworks like the CLPR Act and RTE Act. While there has been a discernible decline in child Labour figures and effective interventions, challenges persist. Loopholes in legislation, weak enforcement mechanisms, and the persistence of hazardous work in certain sectors remain formidable obstacles.

The eradication of child Labour necessitates a multifaceted approach. Strengthening legal frameworks, enhancing enforcement measures, and fortifying social safety nets are imperative. Investments in quality education and skill development initiatives for adolescents are vital for breaking the cycle of poverty and child Labour. Public awareness campaigns and active engagement from civil society are pivotal for sustained progress.

Ultimately, eliminating child Labour demands unwavering commitment from the government, collective action from all stakeholders, and sustained focus on the welfare and education of India's most vulnerable children.

Several NGOs, including CARE India, Child Rights and You, and Global March Against Child Labour, have been dedicated to eradicating child Labour in India. Effective translation of knowledge into legislation and action, along with proactive measures to protect children's health, are essential. Given children's vulnerability and inability to protest against discrimination, concerted efforts are required to protect their rights.

Adopting grassroots strategies to mobilize communities against child Labour and reintegrate child workers into their homes and schools is crucial for breaking the cycle. A multidisciplinary approach involving medical, psychological, and socio-anthropological specialists is necessary to combat this issue.

India plays a pivotal role in global efforts to ensure universal primary education by 2015. Despite advancements, disparities persist, particularly for girls and socially disadvantaged groups. The RTE Act offers a platform to reach marginalized children, including child Labourers, migrants, and those with special needs.

However, significant efforts are needed to bridge disparities and ensure equitable access to quality education.

The successful implementation of the RTE Act holds promise in eradicating child Labour in India. Only through concerted efforts can India abolish this exploitative practice and pave the way for a brighter future for its youth.

End Note:
The fight against child labour in India has witnessed significant progress. Legislative frameworks like the CLPR Act and RTE Act have laid a strong foundation. Measurable decline in child labour numbers and successful interventions offer a beacon of hope. However, the journey towards complete eradication remains far from over. Loopholes in legislation, weak enforcement mechanisms, and the persistence of hazardous work in specific sectors continue to pose major challenges.

This dissertation has highlighted the complexities of child labour in India. It has explored the progress made through legal frameworks, government initiatives, and civil society efforts. However, it has also critically examined the gaps that still exist.

Here are some key takeaways and a call to action:
  • Strengthening the Legal Framework: Continuous review and amendment of the CLPR Act are crucial to address emerging trends and loopholes.
  • Enhancing Enforcement: Improved monitoring systems, stricter penalties, and better training for enforcement officials are essential.
  • Investing in Education: Quality education, particularly in rural areas, is key to breaking the poverty-child labour cycle. Skill development programs for adolescents can also offer valuable alternatives.
  • Community Engagement: Raising awareness about child labour rights and fostering community participation are vital for sustained progress.
  • ColLabouration and Innovation: Public-private partnerships, international cooperation, and utilizing technology can bolster efforts to combat child labour.
Eradicating child labour demands unwavering commitment and a multi-pronged approach. By addressing the root causes of poverty, strengthening legal frameworks, and investing in education and skill development, India can create a future where every child has the opportunity to thrive. The children of India hold immense potential, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure their right to education, health, and a safe and happy childhood.

  2. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (Act No. 61 of 1986), s. 2(ii)
  4. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999, art. 3
  5. Indian Constitutional Law by Professor M P Jain, 16 edition reprint 2012
  6. The Factories Act, 1948 (Act No. 63 of 1948), s. 67
  7. The Minimum Wages Act of 1948 (Act No. 11 of 1948), s. 24
  8. The Mines Act, 1952 (Act No. 35 of 1952), s. 40
  10. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2015 (Act No. 22016), s. 79
  11. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2015 (Act No. 2 of 2016), s. 76
  12. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act No. 35 of 2009), s. 3.
  18. MANU/SC/0038/1982 decided on 18.09.1982
  19. MANU/SC/0196/1984 decided on 25.04.1984
  20. MANU/SC/0051/1983 decided on 16.12.1983
  21. MANU/SC/0169/1997.
  22. MANU/SC/0333/1993 decided on 04.02.1993
  23. Basu K, Tzannatos Z. The Global Child Labour Problem: What Do We Know and What Can We Do? World Bank Econ Rev. 2003;17:14
  24. Angnihotram RV. An overview of occupational health research in India. Indian Journal of Occupational Environ Med.
  25. Burra, Neera "Child labour in rural areas with a special focus on migration, agriculture, mining and brick kilns" National Commission for Protection of Child
  26. UNICEF, Guide to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 2006. Available from:
  27. Tiwari RR. Child labour in footwear Industry: Possible occupational health hazards. Indian J Occupy Environ med.
  28. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO; 2003. International Labour Organisation Combating Child Labour through Education 2003.
  29. ILO good practice guide for addressing child labour in fisheries and aquaculture: Policy and practice preliminary version international labour organization.
  30. ILO. Child Labour: How the challenge is being met. Int Labour Rev. 1997;136:233�57.
  31. Child Labour and Responses in South Asia International Labour Organization (ILO) 1996-2012.

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