Every child is a gift of God a gift must be nurtured with care and affection,
with in the family and society. But unfortunately due to socio-economic and
cultural problems, the code of child centeredness was replaced by neglect, abuse
and deprivation, particularly in the poverty afflicted sections of the
society. While child labour is a complex problem that is basically rooted in
The strategy of progressive elimination of child labour underscores
India's legislative intent, and takes cognizance of the fact that child labour
is not an isolated phenomenon that can be tackled without simultaneously taking
into account the socio-economic milieu that is at the root of the problem. An
International Moral Code of Right and Wrong Behavior said that human rights and
fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings
and as a result
such rights may neither be granted nor be taken away by legislation.
position of India in terms of child labour is not an appreciable one; with a
credible estimates ranging from 60 to 115 million, India has the largest number
of working children in the world. Whether they are sweating in the heat of stone
quarries, working in the fields 16 hours a day, picking rags in the city
streets, or hidden away as domestic servants, these children endure miserable
and difficult lives. They earn little and are made to work more.
to make enough to eat and perhaps to help feed their families as well. They do
not go to school. Many of them have been working since the age of four or five,
and by the time they attain adulthood they may be irrevocably sick and deformed
they will certainly be exhausted, and in this way they are debarred from
enjoying the basic human rights, which are essential for the advancement of
According to the statistics given by Indian government
there are 20 million child labourer's in the country, while other agencies claim
that it is 50 million.Child labour is a conspicuous problem in India. Its
prevalence is evident in the child work participation rate, which is more than
that of other developing countries. Poverty is the reason for child labour in
India. The meager income of child labourer's is also absorbed by their families.
The paucity of organized banking in the rural areas creates a void in taking
facilities, forcing poor families to push their children in harsh labour, the
harshest being bonded labour.
That declaration stated that all ILO members have an obligation to respect, to
promote and to realize in good faith a set of fundamental rights which include
freedom of association the effective recognition of the right to collective
bargaining the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour the
effective abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in
respect of employment and occupation.
A large number of children in India are quite strangers to the joys and
innocence of the formative years of their lives. Instead of enjoying their early
steps on their life's journey, they are forced to work under conditions of
slavery. Child labour persists due to the inefficiency of law, administrative
system and exploitative tendencies on the part of employers. Children are
employed illegally in various industries. But agriculture is the largest sector
where children work at early ages to contribute to their family income. Rural
areas employ 85 percent of the child labour in India. They are forced to work at
young ages due to factors such as poverty, unemployment, a large family size,
and lack of proper education.
In British India, a large number of children were forced into labour due to the
increasing need of cheap labour to produce a large number of goods. The
companies preferred recruiting children as they could be employed for less pay,
better utilized in factory environment, lacked knowledge of their basic rights,
and possessed higher trust levels. The practice of child labour continued even
in the post-Independence India, though the government continued to take
legislative measures against child labour.
The Universal Declaration of Human
Rights passed in 1948 incorporated the basic human rights and needs of children
for proper progression and growth in their younger years. Article 24 of the
Constitution bans engagement of children below the age of 14 in factories,
mines, and other hazardous employment. Article 21A and Article 45 promise to
impart free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act enacted in 1986, prohibited
children younger than the age of 14, from being employed as child labour in
hazardous occupations. Significantly in 2009, India passed the Right of Children
to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE). More recently, the Child Labour
(Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, passed by Parliament,
prohibits the engagement of children in all occupations and of adolescents in
hazardous occupations and processes
. Here adolescents refers to those under 18
years; children to those under 14. The Act also imposes a stringent penalty on
anyone who employs or permits adolescents to work.
Issues Challenges and Problems:
Poverty is the womb of all illness. In addition, poverty is a double edged
weapon in that the poor victim of illness loses his daily winning capacity as
well making him/her poorer at the end of the day. Poverty as an extreme human
condition has always evoked immense social interest.30 Poverty is a single major
cause of child labour; this is a major contributing factor and has many
The Institution of Public opinion conducted a survey in 1969, which
showed that 41.2 percent of Indian population was under poverty line. Half of
these belonged to the Scheduled Caste and Tribes. In village a vast majority of
agriculture labour belongs to these communities.
Poverty of the households may
be due to several factors:
- Inadequate income of the family;
- Unemployed adults;
- Absence of scheme for family allowances; and
- Large family etc.
The higher rate of illiteracy shows the ignorance of parents, so they push their
children to work force which is a supply factor and contributory cause for child
labour. Parents do not think better future of their wards. Especially
rural/migrated parents, tribal and people staying in slum areas do not
understand their responsibilities and hence children are deprived of their right
to education and development.
There is a very close nexus between child labour and illiteracy and they go hand
in hand and each one supports the other. Same studies have revealed that most of
the child labours are either total illiterate or partial illiterate and their
parents are illiterate. No study has ever found a child labour coming from an
educated family. Greed for money, and gross ignorance on the part of the parents
in not sending their children to school is a sad commentary and condemnable.
Population Explosion and Large Family Size:
In a developing country like ours, everything is regulated by population.
Population explosion is an important and major factor for the problem of child
labour. Parents due to their ignorance believed that children are God Gifted,
great human resource and continued to go on increasing the family size is a
misconception and they understand that more children means more income, they
generate. Consequently large family size is burdensome and liability for them
especially for poor, to tribal backward families.
According to 1971 Census, population of India was 548 million and in 2001 it was
1028.70 million. By the turn of 2016 the population is expected to reach 1264
million. Such a massive increase in numbers will affect economic development and
require massive inputs for social services, civic amenities and infrastructure
Child population records 398,306,000 and interpretation of 2001 Census
figures of the National Labour Institute indicate that, out of 203 million
children between the ages of 5 and 14, 116 million are in schools, 12.6 million
are in fulltime employment and the status of 74 million is unknown. Most, if not
all, of the 87 million, not in school, do house work on family farms, work along
side their parents as paid agriculture labourer's, work as domestic servants, or
are otherwise employed.
The tradition of making children learn family skills:
Most traditional families believe that a child is born to them to earn more for
the family. The child is just another source of income and traditional business
families in fact put the child into business rather than send them to school.
Under the pretext of training them, they make them work for hours, sometimes
resorting to physical torture in case child makes mistakes. There is a myth that
child labour is necessary to preserve traditional arts and crafts.
bonded to families or who are hired labour are never taught the actual craft.
Learning of a particular art or craft by children within their families, as part
of their socialization, should be integrated with their education. Children
should not be sacrificed at the altar of preserving traditional art.44 There is
another argument which advocates that work equips the children with skills for
the future is a contributory factor to child labour.
Unemployment and Under Employment:
Child labour is as much the cause as consequence of adult unemployment and under
employment. It supplements and buttresses the family income. Child labour is not
only a subsidy to industries but a direct inducement for payment of low wages to
adult workers. The entrance of the children into the labour market reduces the
opportunities of employment for the adult and lowers the bargaining power of
adult workers. Child labour involves the use of labour as its point of lowest
productivity. Hence it is an insufficient utilization of labour force.
Weak and Tardy enforcement of the child related (child labour) legislation:
Although plethora of legislations have been enacted for prohibition of child
labour, but due to certain lacunae, shortcomings and week and defective
enforcement mechanisms, the practice of child labour is on increasing trend. The
Child Labour(Prohibition and Regulation) Act is intended to regulate child
labour rather abolish. Proviso of Sec.3 is abused by the employers/vested
interests. Various studies show that enforcement of child labour legislation
faces a number of critical problems.
Migration and Child Labour:
There is a close nexus between migration and child labour and migration is one
of the major contributory factors to child labour. Migration refers to
the movement of workers from one place to another. There are various factors
responsible for migration of parents and children. Again poverty, large family
size, with low family income and non availability of work in the village compels
the parents to migrate to urban areas. The adverse financial position of parents
compels them to borrow from the village money lender who charges high rate of
interest on the loans advanced to the villagers and a pressure from the side of
money lender to repay the debts is likely to compels the parents to send their
children to earn, since no work is available in the villages.
Employers Preference for Child Labour:
It is one of the demand factors for causation and perpetuation of child labour.
The most important objective of the employer is to earn more profit on limited
expenditure. Employer perfectly knows that child labour is cheap and adult
labour is expensive. Hence he prefers to employ child labour rather than adults
by payment of low/minimum wages and displacing the adults from labour market. He
prefers to employ child labour as children are innocent, docile, disciplined and
sincere and don't have any union and cannot question the authority of employer.
Defective Legislation, law, policy, Plans and programmes:
Equally this factor leads to perpetuation of child labour because of lacunae in
laws, policy and plans do not address the burning problem of child labour. Art.
24 of the Constitution intended for abolition of child labour where as Sec.3 of
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 is designed to the regulation
of child labour rather than prohibition. Thus there is a contradiction between
each other and leads to confusion and ambiguity. Further Sec. 3 of the Act
prohibits and Sec.6 of the Act regulates the conditions of work of children,
again there is ample scope for child labour. Further the proviso annexed to Sec.
3 of the Act is often and invariably misused which keep the occupation, work or
process that is carried on by the occupier with the aid of the family, out of
the purview of the Act. This proviso is abused by employing children.
Constitutional Provisions Relating To Protection Of Child Labour:
Child Labor is a work which deprives the children from there childhood their
potentiality and their dignity.that is harmfull to physical and mental
devlpoement of the child. it is the fundamental right to life with human dignity
they are all human being and cannot be treated as the animals .They have the
right to live with dignity and free from exploitation. The Consttution of india
provides certain legislations in respect of working children under part-iii of
the Constitution in the fundamental right and DPSP part.
The national political will and commitment, to eliminate child labour as also to
regulate the conditions in which children work, have been reflected in an
abundant measure in the constitution and laws of the land.
There are certain provisions of the constitution, which have a direct bearing on
Prohibition of employment of human beings and forced labour.
Traffic in human beings, beggar and other similar forms of forced labour are
prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence in
accordance with law.
- Article 24
Prohibition of employment of children in factories etc.
No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any
factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
- Article-39 (e) and (f)
Directive principles of state policy
The state shall, in particular, direct its policy, securing:
(e) That the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age
of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic
necessity to enter a vocation unsuited to their age or strength.
(f) Those children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a
healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and
youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material
- Article- 45
Provision for free and compulsory education for children
The state shall endeavor to provide within a period of ten years from the
commencement of this constitution, for free and compulsory education for all
children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
The Constitution of India (26 January 1950), through various articles enshrined
in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays
Laws Regulating the Child Labour in India:
- No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or
mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Article 24);
- The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age
six to 14 years. (Article 21 (A));
- The State shall direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength
of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused and that
they are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their
age and strength (Article 39-e);
- Children shall be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy
manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth
shall be protected against moral and material abandonment (Article 39-f);
- The State shall Endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the
commencement of the Constitution for free and compulsory education for all
children until they complete the age of 14 years (Article 45).
- Child labour is a matter on which both the Union Government and state
governments can legislate. A number of legislative initiatives have been
undertaken at both levels.
There are a wide range of laws, which guarantee to a substantial extent the
rights and entitlement as provided in the constitution and in the UN convention.
Some of them are given below:
Forms Of Child Labour:
Children work in three sectors of the economy:
- The Apprentices Act, 1861
- The Child Labour Act, 1986
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
- The Children (pledging of labour) Act, 1929
- Children Act, 1960.
- The Guardian and Wards Act, 1890
- The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956
- The Hindu Adoption and Maintence Act, 1956
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
- Juvenile Justice Act, 1986
- The Orphanages and other charitable Homes (supervision and control) Act,
- Probation of offenders Act, 1958
- Reformatory schools Act, 1857
- The women's and children's institutions (licensing) Act, 1956
- The young persons (Harmful publications) Act, 1956
Convention and other international instruments ,which deal with the subject of
child labour are as follows:
- The Agrarian sector:
The agrarian sector in India is characterized by poverty, illiteracy,
unemployment, highly skewed distribution of land-ownership, traditional
modes of production, prevalence of old customs and traditions, system of
usury, etc. Several forms of child labour such as invisible, migrant, bonded
etc. emerge from this sector, which encompasses such time-consuming
activities for boys as looking after animals, gathering wood and fodder,
sowing and reaping, protecting fields from pests, weeding, etc. For girls,
the activities are milking animals, cooking, and looking after younger
children. The rural child is working child and work is a fundamental part of
his or her existence, irrespective of whether it is non-monetary. It also,
therefore, means that education is a casualty for such a child.
- Industrial sector:
Industrial sector is a growing level of urbanization as a
result of migration from rural to urban areas and from smaller towns to bigger
cities, where industries are being set up. Another feature is the dispersal of
industries into family-based units. This again causes the emergence of various
forms of child labour, such as invisible, wage-based child labour working under
conditions of acute exploitation in the industries, children of marginalized
families working as self-employed children or under-wage employment in the
- Service sector:
The services sector actually has a certain overlap with the
industrial sector. A majority of children in this sector are self-employed
because its very nature provides relief from direct supervision. It also
provides autonomy and freedom of control over resources. Such children are found
to be working both in the urban as well as rural areas. In this sector, child
labour can take such forms as invisible, self-employed or under wage-based
employment, with children changing jobs at regular intervals. This is
particularly true in urban areas.
- Rights Of Children Under International Law:
The concept of equality of all human beings, as embodied in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights of I948 stipulates under Article-25 para 2 that
childhood is entitled to special care and assistance. The above principle along
with other principles of the Universal Declaration concerning child were
incorporated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1959.The
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under Articles 23 and 24
and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under
Article 10 made provisions for the care of the child. However the
International Labour Organization (ILO) provides universal standards and
guidelines. The ILO, a specialized agency of the UN, aims to provide guidance
and standards for labour practices around the world.
- Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
- Worst Form of Child Labour Convention, 1999; and
- Worst Form of Child Labour Recommendation
The International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) is a global
program launched by the International Labour Organization in December, 1991.
India was the first country to join it in 1992 when it signed a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) with ILO. The MOU that expired on 31.12.1996 has been
extended from time to time and has recently been extended till 31st December,
2006. The long-term objective of IPEC is to contribute to the effective
abolition of child labour. IPEC-India has, during the period 1992-2002,
supported over 165 Action Programs.
The Govt. of India and the US Department of Labour have also initiated a US$ 40
million project aimed at eliminating child labour in 10 hazardous sectors across
21 districts in five States namely, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu,
Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi.
This project, popularly known as INDUS, is being
implemented by ILO. An estimated 80,000 children will be withdrawn and
rehabilitated through this project. Support activities will also be directed to
10,000 families of former child workers. On 20 November 2009, the global
community celebrates the 20th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations
General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the unique
document that sets international standards for the care, treatment and
protection of all individuals below age 18.
Rights Of Children Under National Laws:
India has all along followed a proactive policy in the matter of tackling the
problem of child labour. India has always stood for constitutional, statutory
and development measures required eliminating child labour. The Indian
Constitution has consciously incorporated provisions to secure compulsory
universal elementary education as well as labour protection for children. Labour
Commissions in India have gone into the problems of child labour and have made
The Constitution of India, too provides certain
rights to children and prohibits child labour. Such provisions are as follows:
- No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed in any factory or
mine or engaged in any other hazardous work.
- State, in particular, shall direct its policy towards securing that the
health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of the
children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic
necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age or strength.
- Children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy
manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth
are protected against exploitations and against moral and material abandon.
- The state shall endeavor to provide, within the period of 10 years from
the commencement of the Constitution, free and compulsory education for all
children until they complete the age of 14 years. 5. The state shall provide
free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of six to 14
years in such a manner as the state may by law determine.
- Who is parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his
child or the case may be, ward between the age of six and14years.
Apart from these laws mainly concerning children, there are a host of related
welfare and criminal laws, which have beneficial provisions for the case, and
protection of children. Even the laws relating to commerce, industry and trade
have protective provisions beneficial to children.
The Important National Legislative Developments Include The Following:
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986: The Act prohibits the
employment of children below the age of 14 years in 16 occupations and 65
processes that are hazardous to the children's lives and health. These
occupations and processes are listed in the Schedule to the Act. In October
2006, the Government has included children working in the domestic sector as
well as roadside eateries and motels under the prohibited list of hazardous
More recently, in September 2008 diving as well as process
involving excessive heat (e.g. working near a furnace) and cold; mechanical
fishing; food processing; beverage industry; timber handling and loading;
mechanical lumbering; warehousing; and processes involving exposure to free
silica such as slate, pencil industry, stone grinding, slate stone mining, stone
quarries as well as the agate industry were added to the list of prohibited
occupations and processes;
The Factories Act, 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the
age of 14 years. An adolescent aged between 15 and 18 years can be employed in a
factory only if he obtains a certificate of fitness from an authorized medical
doctor. The Act also prescribes four and a half hours of work per day for
children aged between 14 and 18 years and prohibits their working during night
The Mines Act, 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years
of age in a mine. Further, it states that apprentices above 16 may be allowed to
work under proper supervision in a mine.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000: This Act was
last amended in 2002 in conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child covers young persons below 18 years of age. Section 26 of this Act deals
with the Exploitation of a Juvenile or Child Employee, and provides in relevant
part, that whoever procures a juvenile or the child for the purpose of any
hazardous employment and keeps him in bondage and withholds his earnings or uses
such earning for his own purposes shall be punishable with imprisonment for a
term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable for fine.
States, including Karnataka and Maharashtra, this provision has been used
effectively to bring to book many child labour employers who are otherwise not
covered by any other law and to give relief and rehabilitation benefits to a
large number of children.
The Minimum Wages Act, 1948: Prescribes minimum wages for all employees i n all
establishments or to those working at home in certain sectors specified in the
schedule of the Act. Central and State Governments can revise minimum wages
specified in the schedule. Some consider this Act as an effective instrument to
combat child labour in that it is being used in some States (such as Andhra
Pradesh) as the basis on which to prosecute employers who are employing children
and paying them lower wages.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: Provides for
free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This
legislation also envisages that 25 per cent of seats in every private school
should be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups including differently
An important judicial intervention in the action against child labour in India
was the M.C. Mehta case (1996) in which The Supreme Court, directed the Union
and state governments to identify all children working in hazardous processes
and occupations, to withdraw them from work, and to provide them with quality
education. The Court also directed that a Child Labour
Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund be set up using contributions from employers who
contravene the Child Labour Act.
Additionaly, in 1993, the Supreme Court in
Unnikrishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh ruled that each child has the right to
free education until he or she completes the age of 14 years. Article-21-A which
was incorporated into the Constitution reflects this standard. In 2005, the M.V.
Foundation, an NGO working on child rights brought a public interest litigation
petition which argues that child labour up to the age of compulsory education is
unconstitutional and is a negation of rights under Article 21-A which provides
for compulsory education up to the age of 14. This case is still pending before
the Supreme Court. Notably however, under this case the Court has asked the
Government to file a status report on the implementation of Sarva Shiksha
Abhiyan, a government programme providing free and compulsory eduction to all
India is a signatory to the:
Important Judicial Pronouncements Relating to Child Labour:
- ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29);
- ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105);
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In Laxmikant v.Union of India
 the Supreme Court observe that it is obvious
that ib a civilized society the importance of child welfare cannot be
overemphasized because the welfare of the community ,its growth and development
depends on the health and wellbeing of the chidren. The SC also states that
children's are the supreme national asset and the wellbeing of the nation
deepends upon how their children grows and develops.
In Sheela Barse & ors v.Union of India
 The SC observe that right to live
includes right to live with human dignity. It is the fundamental right to live
with human dignity and free from exploitation. Child labour is a work which
deprives the children from childhood and their potential that may be harmful for
their physical as well as the mental development.
The constitution and DPSP prohibits child labour below 14 years in any hazardous
work. Another notable Government initiative under the 11th plan is to amend all
laws to recognize everyone under the age of 18 as children and to take
appropriate measures to protect their rights accordingly.
The Govt. should take proper effective steps to decrease the population and give
the employment to the parents of child labour. Necessary practical steps should
be taken to educate the children. Provided the necessary sufficient funds to the
organizations working for the education and removal of child labour. There
should be effective implementations of child protective laws. There should be
necessary prosecution of child labour defaulters.
The involvement of the religious leaders, trade unionist and non government
organizations and to tackle the child labour by forming advisory committees on
child labour on block level should be there. The authorities should not bend
before the pressure of the politicians while tackling the problems of child
The government should bring down the incidence of child labour through reform
and investment in education. Mid-day meals should be re-emphasized; homeless
children should be provided housing through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan boarding
schools, and laws banning child labour should be more strictly enforced.
At present, in spite of policy of the government regarding removal of child
labour. The various steps taken in this direction and the laws passed about it
haven't controlled the ongoing child labour. This is possible only with the
co-operation of all sections of the society and the law enforcement agencies and
by removing or minimizing the causes of child labour. The main thrust should be
on controlling the population of the country, education of the children and
providing sufficient funds for its removal from the gross domestic product of
The phenomenon of child labour is multi-dimensional complex problem and deep
rooted in the socio-economic fabric of the society. So it may not be wise to
rely on one single approach to deal with it. There are many factors responsible
to this complex problem, so a comprehensive integrated approach is required to
tackle and combat child labour. This can be done only by bringing attitudinal
change, and social awareness and rigorous campaign against the problem of child
labour.It requires honest effort and strong commitment and support from all
- http://www.labour.nic.in,international program on child labour
- http://www.childlabour.in/causes of child labour
- The Constitution of India-Pandey J.N
- Law and social transformation-Mallik and Raval
Written By: Rahul Gupta
- Dr. Jaspal Singh: Rights of children under Indian constitution and the
convention of Rights of Children 1989
- Child Labour and India Embassy of India, Washington, DC.mht
- Roy J. Adams: Labour Rights as Human Right: Implication of the
- Violation of child labour laws in India
- Peoples Union for democratic right v.Union of India(1982)S.C.C.235
- Laboures working on salal hydro Project v.State of J&K AIR 1984 SC.177-
- http://www.labour.nic.in,international program on child labour
- Child Labour India Environment Portal.mht
- Child Labour and India Embassy of India, Washington, DC.mht
- http://india code.nic.in
- AIR1984 (2 SCC 244)
- The Constitution of India-Pandey J.N
- AIR 1986 SC 1773
- Research Scholar, P, G.Department of Law, Sambalpur University, Odisha, India
Email Id: [email protected]
Please Drop Your Comments