QUESTION: Throw a light on the plight of children related to forced labour in poor countries like Tonga, India etc. and discuss in detail the efforts taken by India in fighting this social ill of child labour.
Topic- HISTORIC RATIFICATION
- Child Labour and its related issues
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The decision by the Kingdom of Tonga to outlaw the worst forms of child labour (Convention 182) is the first time in the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s 101-year history that a labour standard has been universally ratified.
IMPORTANT POINTS :
UNIVERSAL RATIFICATION :
- It means ratification by all the members of an organisation. Convention No. 182 has received ratification from all the 187 members of ILO.
CHILD LABOUR :
- The ILO defines child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development.
- In the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four children (ages 5 to 17) are engaged in labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.
- The eradication of child labour is part of the SDG Target 8.7.
- The UN General Assembly has declared 2021 as the year for the elimination of child labour.
CONVENTION No. 182 ?
- The convention was adopted by ILO member states meeting in Geneva in 1999.
- It aims to protect children from the worst forms of child labour, which include slavery, prostitution, trafficking, deployment of children in armed conflict and other conditions that compromise their overall well-being.
OTHER INTERNATIONAL LAWS ON CHILD LABOUR :
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989:
- It contains the idea that children are not just objects who belong to their parents and for whom decisions are made, or adults in training. Rather, they are human beings and individuals with their own rights.
- Minimum Age Convention 1973: It aims to prevent the employment of children below a lower age threshold.
- Both Convention No. 182 and the 1973 Minimum Age Convention are among the 8 ILO conventions regarded as embodying the spirit of the 1998 declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work.
- India ratified Convention no.182 and the 1973 Minimum Age Convention in 2017.
IMPACT OF LAWS ON CHILD LABOUR :
- According to ILO, incidence of child labour and its worst forms dropped by almost 40% between 2000 and 2016 as ratification rates on child labour increased and countries adopted laws and policies.
- The conventions have resulted in significant increases in enrolments in primary education.
- These conventions also provide the necessary framework to counteract the predominance of informality in the conditions of work and ought to be a priority for governments.
CHALLENGES Related to Child Labour:
- The Sustainable Developmental Goal (SDG) aims at complete abolition of child labour by 2025. However, still an estimated 152 million are trapped in child labour and 72 million of them are engaged in hazardous work.
- The COVID-19 pandemic is also threatening the reversal of recent gains, with widespread job losses, deterioration in conditions of work, decline in household incomes and temporary school closures.
INDIA AND THE CHILD LABOUR :
- In the age group of 15-18 years, India has around 23 million working children. This means one in eleven children between the ages of 5-18 years in the country are working.
- Five states which are the India’s biggest child labour employers- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS :
- Article 21A: Right to Education
- Article 24: Prohibition of employment of children (below the age fourteen years) in factories, etc.
- Article 39: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing 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 avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
INITIATIVES BY THE GoI
o Gurupadswamy Committe:
- In 1979, the central government formed the first statutory committee to analyse and research on the issue of child labour in India.
o National Policy on Child Labour (1987):
- It focuses more on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations and processes, rather than on prevention.
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (the JJ Act) and amendment of the JJ Act in 2006
- The Right to Education Act, 2009 has made it mandatory for the state to ensure that all children aged 6 to 14 years are in school and receive free education.
- Another landmark step was the enactment of the Child labour (Prohibition and Prevention) Amendment Act, 2016.
- Initiatives like Operation Smile, Operation Muskaan to rescue and rehabilitation of childrens from an unorganised sector, manufacturing units and other factories.
- Recently, India has ratified International Labour Organizations Convention (ILO) no 138 (minimum age for employment) and Convention no 182
- Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour (PENCIL) Portal.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 :
- In India, the lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 has left child labourers with no source of income, no means of protection against the disease.
- The lockdown has forced millions of migrant workers — facing long-term unemployment — to return to their villages without any jobs. Children of returnee migrants have been forced to become child labourers.
- The issue of child labour is still prevelant in India, despite the presence of several laws.
- Child labour legislation to protect children has been inadequate and face the following challenges:
o Definitional issue:
- One of the biggest challenges in eradicating child labour is the confusion around the definition of a child, in terms of age, in various laws dealing with child labour.
- Lack of identification: Age identification of children is a difficult task in India due to the lack of identification documents E.g. Birth Certificates, School Certificates etc.
o Weak enforcement of law:
- Due to lack of adequate deterrence and corruption it is difficult to eradicating child labour
- Poverty and lack of school are considered as the main causes of child labour.
- The extreme form of child labour that is forced labour, in which children suffer not only the impact of hazardous working conditions but lack of freedom.
UNICEF’S WORK AGAINST CHILD LABOUR IN INDIA:
- UNICEF has also been working for long against child labour in India.
- Most of its programs in India focus on children in specific types of work, for example cotton production in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, metalwork and carpets in Uttar Pradesh and tea gardens in Assam.
- These programmes reach tens of thousands of children and their families in areas with high levels of child labour.
WAY AHEAD :
- The current efforts would have to be stepped up significantly to achieve the ambitious goal of total abolition of the scourge of child labour by 2025.
- As the world prepares to designate 2021 as the year to abolish child labour, governments must seize the moment to instil hope in the future generations
- The cycle of poverty and its implications must be addressed properly, so families can find other means to survive. Many NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, ChildFund, CARE India, etc. have been working to eradicate child labour in India.
- Right kind of focus and orientation with state level authorities is also needed to avoid the practice of child labour. Forced Child Labour requires an urgent action from governments and the international communities.
- Pre school education should be a priority and also there is a need to reach more and more children to reap the benefits of RTE.
- Forced Child Labour requires an urgent action from governmnets and the international communities.
- The Government generally focuses on immediate rescue and not on the long term situation or the prevention dimension. The prevention dimension needs to be focussed upon.