This research paper will address the question: why, despite the existence of legislation, children are still exploited in India today? This is not only an important question for the Indian government but also for western society because in a globalised economy there is a significant chance that we will consume goods produced by children. This paper will argue that the core reasons for child labour and exploitation are an over population, lack of schooling, and the social system.
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This research paper will address the question: why, despite the existence of legislation, children are still exploited in India today? This is an important question to be asked since we make use of products that have a large chance of being in contact with child labour. With the research found, it is noticed that child labour and child exploitation is caused through an over population, lack of schooling, and the social system.
Many sources used were books and reports focusing on child labour, and what one can do to eradicate it and the results so far a variety of eradication initiatives. These reports were approximately all written by the United Nations. The online sources include websites such as the United Nations Development Programme, Child Rights Information and many more.
The western society has increased their concerns about child labour, not just globally but also focusing on India. The Millennium Development Goals, broad consumer awareness and growing social responsibility policies and guidelines in companies have all helped to fight child labour, and child exploitation. However still many children are exploited today and consumers, companies and governments must continue and further strengthen anti child labour initiatives as to ensure that one day child labour in the world will be abolished.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) estimates that with “12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations, India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world.” This raises the question asked by John Pilger “Why such a rich and resourceful and culturally wise society, with its democracy and memories of great popular struggle, live like this.” It is ruled by the India Law that the working age for children must be over fourteen years old. However many children in India start working at the age of five years, may it be the glass, pottery or clothing industries. Child labour is an important topic due to the fact that it has such a large impact on everyone’s everyday life. Common clothing we wear of companies such as Nike and GAP at one stage was found to have children under the age of ten producing these clothes. This paper will also be discussing child exploitation in the area of prostitution, which is another form of child labour. Children are mentally and physically not ready to work as well as it is illegal for children to work around the globe and also in India. The question being asked in this research paper is, why regardless of the existing legislation, are children still exploited in the workplace of India to this day.
INDIA TODAY & DEFINITION OF CHILD LABOUR
The Republic of India is the second largest populated country in the world, with at least 1.17 billion inhabitants. By the nineteenth century, Great Britain had developed into the leading political power in this immense country. Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru led a peaceful resistance against the British, which eventually brought independence in 1947. This multicultural country shaped by its unique geography, architecture, music, religions and languages is a rich country in industries such as textiles, steel, petroleum, software and pharmaceuticals. India is the eleventh largest economy in the world and quickly developing.
Before we consider the possible reasons of why children are still exploited in India, we first need to understand what exactly defines child labour. According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Child labour is defined as “Those children who are doing paid or unpaid work in factories, workshops, establishments, mines and in the service sector such as domestic labour”. Women and Child Development (WCD) which is a Ministry in India that devise policies, plans and programs and also enact and amend legislation for the development of women and children. The WCD define a child as “human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” Child labourers tend to start working from a very young age, when they are still very tender, mentally and physically not ready for hard labour. Indian laws states that girls and boys may end their compulsory education and start working at the ages of fourteen. There are a few exceptions where the child must be eighteen to work. These jobs which are typically the more hazardous jobs, such as mining as well as other, are all extremely unhealthy.
SOCIAL SYSTEM AND SCHOOLING
Unlike many other countries, India is unique in the way in which they divide their people into social groups: The Caste System. There are five different ‘levels’ into which one can be born; The Brahmins, also known as the Priests, have the highest achievable level in the Caste System. Following with the level of the Kshatriya’s; who are the rulers and the warriors of India. The Vaishyas are the farmers, merchants and the artisans. They were always the ones entrusted with the care and trade of agriculture. The labourers also known as the Shudras used to be the lowest level of the Caste System until the fifth level came into existence, the ‘Untouchables’. They are the polluted labourers. Once one is born into one of these levels or societies, there is no possible change. Child labourers are often found in the lower regions of the Caste System: “Caste is probably the strongest element in the Hindu way of life, and despite some weakening of its former rigidity and strength, particularly in the cities, it still permeates rural society, and inhibits its weaker, lower caste, members from asserting their constitutional rights and raising their socio-economic status.” Many of these children that set off into the child labour industry often come from the Untouchable level and are also known as the Dalits.
As UNICEF states that “In India, the view has been that some people are born to rule and to work with their minds while others, the vast majority, are born to work with their bodies. Many traditionalists had been unperturbed about lower-caste children failing to enroll in or dropping out of school, and if these children end up doing hazardous labour, it is likely to be seen as their lot in life.” Schooling for the Dalits is simply not standard. They are not meant to be educated; as if they were educated they would “pose a threat to village hierarchies and power relations.” Not only the Dalits, but also children from other parts of the lower Castes do not attend school. Be due to insufficient schools and how schooling is simply not available. There is a lack of teachers to teach in schools; absence in curriculums and syllabus; there are wrong methods of teaching; and teacher are not properly educated. But also because of the expenses that schools bring the family. It is simple that families cannot afford schooling, as most Dalits live on less than $1 per day. The mentality of the parents is another cause of not sending their children to school. Some believe that “children should work in order to develop skills useful in the job market, instead of taking advantage of a formal education” they feel that this is right because they do not know better. Their rituals and traditions have been passed on for many generations. But this contradicted by President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil who has said, “I am deeply committed to the cause of education and would like to see every person, man and woman, boy and girl, be touched by the light of modern education. “.
It has been said by an Indian government committee that nearly thirty-eight percent of the Indian population is poor. It has been known that India has the largest amount of poor people in a single country worldwide. Many of the poor people living in India, live on less than 0.20$ or 0.40$ a day. Rural Poverty is the poverty found in rural areas which affect the rural economy, rural society and the rural political system. Rural poverty is a clear cause of child labour and child exploitation. Overall, poverty forces the parents and guardians of the child to push them into hard labour. Whether it is the Glass Industry, Lock Industry, the Traditional Crafts, Pottery or the Clothing Industry, they all have one thing in common, which is that these are hazardous, extremely unhealthy and life threatening occupations. Children working are sources of income for the families in India. A study even showed that between thirty-four and thirty-seven percent of the total household incomes come from children. The reasons for the parents to push their children in such hard labour are due to the fact that the employers will most likely employ children over adults. This is because children are cheaper than adults. Adults will demand a higher income than the children. Another reason is that the hands of children are smaller, which work faster, and get between machines easier in factories.
MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
In 2000 more than 170 Head of States and Governments came together to create a plan to halving poverty, decreasing the spread of HIV/AIDS and to provide universal primary education by 2015. The United Nations Development Programme quotes that these eight goals are the “most broadly supported, comprehensive and specific development goals the world has ever agreed upon” the eight goals are:
Goal Number 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal Number 2: achieve universal primary education
Goal Number 3: promote gender equality and empower women
Goal Number 4: reduce child mortality
Goal Number 5: improver maternal health
Goal Number 6: combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal Number 7: ensure environmental sustainability
Goal Number 8: develop a global partnership for development
All of these goals are local and global. They have been altered to suit each country specifically. These eight millennium goals have a large impact on India. The United Nations Development Programme is focusing on the one third of India’s population who are considered poor. They are helping by “focusing on human development and equitable access to income opportunities and financial products.” I believe that with the help of the United Nations Development Programme India will slowly but surely eradicate the extreme poverty which will then also help eradicate child labour. The recent Millennium Development Goals Report from 2010 has shown that the “Poverty gap ratio at $1.25 a day” went from 16 percent to 8 percent. It has been said that India “has contributed to the large reduction in global poverty.”
Prostitution is another form of child labour, with different types of prostitution in India existing. One of these is the traditional and the religious prostitution, “thousands of girls are confirmed in the name of tradition and religious practices- into sexual exploitation in rural India.” Child prostitution is socially acceptable in parts of Indian society. It is said that they are ‘given’ to the Gods, which creates them as a religious prostitute. A serious factor of child prostitution in India is the spread of HIV/ AIDS. Committees have been set up to help exterminate child prostitution, and to help decrease the spread of HIV. The World Health Organization and the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee help encourage condom use in the brothels of India. With these organizations helping combat HIV/ AIDS and other diseases, Millennium Development Goal number 6 is met. A sprawling red-light district in Kolkata named the Sonagachi that translates as the “Golden Tree” was famous for its concubines between the 1700s and 1800s is now a place which “has hundreds of multistory brothels built along narrow alleys, housing more than six thousand prostitutes.” Children working in these brothels entered this sex industry unwillingly. Girls born in these brothels are raised as prostitutes, and the boys become servants and help with the laundry and cooking. “Far more women and girls are shipped into brothels each year in the early twenty-first century than African slaves were shipped into slave plantations each year in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.”
The International Labour Organization states “The Constitution of India (26 January 1950), through various articles enshrine in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays down that:”
No child shall be employed in any type hazardous employment
The state shall provide free and compulsory education for all children aged between six and fourteen
All men and women including children are protected by the state as that they will not have to work in vocations not suited for their gender, strength or age.
All children shall be given the opportunity to grow up and develop in healthy manner and conditions of freedom and dignity and the promise that they will all be protected against moral and material abandonment
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Other then the constitution, six other main legislative initiatives have been passed on a national level (and many more on local level) in order to at least control child labour. These six legislative initiatives are:
The Factories Act, 1948. Is the same as the Child Labour Act in the fact that is bans children from under the age of 14 to work in factories. For those children aged between 16 and 18 the act states that they can only work when found fit by a doctor and for no more than 4.5 hours a day.
The Minimum Wages Act, 1948. This act as stated in the title is concerning the minimum wage of all workers in all industries in India, this of course includes children that are at the legal age of working. This means that children are to receive as much money for their labour as adults, which is considered a strong device in combating child labour.
The Mines Act, 1952. States those children under the age of 18 are not allowed to work in Indian mines. Apprentices (who have to be 16 or older) are only allowed to participate in the mining operations when appropriately supervised.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. This act prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in 16 different occupations and 65 different processes that are considered dangerous and harmful to a child’s life. These 14 occupations and 65 processes are listed in the schedule to the act and in 2006 multiple occupations and processes were added to the original 14 and 65.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000. This act was amended in 2002 in order to conform to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. It is in place to make sure that children who are indeed working are able to work for decent wages, that they can spend on themselves and that the employees are not held to work against their will in any shape or form. It furthermore states that the people and employers who do not confirm to these laws and regulations are punishable with up to three years in prison and a fine.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. This act provides free education to all children aged six to 14. It also states that 25% of all seats in private schools are to be given to less advantaged children.
As stated above, India has many laws concerning child labour and child exploitation. But the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 has many so called ‘loopholes’ which makes this law ineffective. The law states that “children working as part of family labour are exempt from the purview of the Act”. Research has shown that this stipulation has been extensively mistreated by making child labour into family labour. Due to this, work has now been given at home. To eliminate this problem “The Child Labour Act must be non-negotiable and the word “Regulation” should be removed from its title so that child labour abolition becomes non-negotiable.”
India not alone has made certain laws on child labour; the United Nations has as well. The law against child labour is an international agreement where it is stated that all children are treated fairly, and with dignity. The laws that commence with “the right toâ€¦” are grouped into four different categories. The first one is the; ‘Right to Survival’ by this it is meant that all children have a right to food, clean water, shelter, and health care they need so they can survive. The next group is the ‘Right to Protection’. This indicates for that all children have the right to feel safe and secure, especially in times when they feel extremely vulnerable which is very often in the child labour industry. ‘Right to Development’, this group states that all children have the right to an education and a time to play so children get the right to develop in all aspects that they can for future situations. ‘The Right to Participation’, the children have a right to be involved in the life of their communities, that they are able to express themselves and participate in decisions that will affect them. With these simple stated laws, we can easily try to slowly reduce the amount of children who are still in the child labour industry. As Kailash Satyarthi a Child Rights Activist said, “Child labour is the denial of childhood” we can get rid of child labour by increasing the wages for the adults so they can earn enough to keep the whole family standing and running, so innocent and tender children do not have to work. Also by developing the communities and improving their living standards so they do not live in the poorest of poor areas and risk the life’s of their children.
Three of the main reasons for child labour in India are a product of extreme poverty, the social system and a rising population. But to morally accept child labour because of poverty, a rising population and the social system is not only unreasonable, but unacceptable. This major problem has so many causes to it that child labour is not at all easily eradicated as nowadays pillars of Indian society (also the social system) would require radical change. Even though education is compulsory in India, many children do not attend. The school system is especially weak for the children in the lower Caste, “people from the lower casts are often deprived of the most basic facilities and opportunities”. Although child labour provides the money a family needs to survive,
it is a cruel to make children work at such a young age and we all need to take responsibility to contribute to eradication of this terrible problem In the Western business world. Social responsibility makes sure that the companies seek and promote the rights named in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. They do not tolerate human rights abuses. They also do not tolerate forced labour and other forms of exploitational labour. Companies that support social responsibility support programs to abolish child labour in a way that is consistent with the basic interests of the child. The power of the consumer is extremely important these days can be very impactful as we have seen in some cases where companies were identified for using child labour to increase their profits. This is equally true in the area of fair trade which guarantees fair prices for products and this facilitates no child labour needs to be involved to ensure a living for the family. So it is very important that consumers are aware of the causes of child labour and are prepared to pay a little more for products. This is a little effort compared to the suffering of children put to hard physical and mental labour from a very young age. As Mohandas Gandhi once said, “I have also seen children successfully surmounting the effects of an evil inheritance. That is due to purity being an inherent attribute of the soul.”