QUESTION : Discuss in detail how Covid-19 pandemic has hit India as far as the child labour is concerned and the efforts taken by India in fighting this social ill of child labour.
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF CHILD LABOUR IS IN INDIA’S HANDS
Issue Of Child Labour In India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The true extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child labour is yet to be measured but all indications show that it would be significant as children are unable to attend school and parents are unable to find work.
- However, not all the factors that contribute to child labour were created by the pandemic; most of them were pre-existing and have been exposed or amplified by it.
- 152 million children around the world are still in child labour, 73 million of them in hazardous work.
- A Government of India survey suggests that 95% of the children in the age group of 6-13 years are attending educational institutions (formal and informal) while the corresponding figures for those in the age group of 14-17 years is 79.6%.
- The Census of India 2011 reports 10.1 million working children in the age group of 5-14 years, out of whom 8.1 million are in rural areas mainly engaged as cultivators (26%) and agricultural labourers (32.9%).
- UNESCO estimates based on the 2011 Census record 38.1 million children as “out of school” (18.3% of total children in the age group of 6-13 years).
IMPACT OF COVID-19 :
- Reverse migration: The large number of returned migrant workers has compounded the socio-economic challenges.
o With increased economic insecurity, lack of social protection and reduced household income, children from poor households are being pushed to contribute to the family income with the risk of exposure to exploitative work.
- Challenges in education: With closure of schools and challenges of distance learning, children may drop out leaving little scope for return unless affirmative and immediate actions are taken.
- Digital divide: Many schools and educational institutions are moving to online platforms for continuation of learning.
o The NSS Report titled ‘Household Social Consumption on Education in India’ suggests that in 2017-18, only 24% of Indian households had access to an Internet facility, proportions were 15% among rural households and 42% among urban households.
o The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2020 survey highlights that a third of the total enrolled children received some kind of learning materials from their teachers during the reference period as digital mode of education was opted for.
- Lower rate of reduction: While child labour has declined during the past decade globally, estimates indicate that the rate of reduction has slowed by two-thirds in the most recent four-year period.
- The economic contraction and lockdowns ensuing from the pandemic have affected all countries in Asia, leading to income reductions for enterprises and workers, many of them in the informal economy.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT :
- Policy interventions such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005, the Right to Education Act 2009 and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme have paved the way for children to be in schools along with guaranteed wage employment (unskilled) for rural families.
- Concerted efforts towards convergence of government schemes is also the focus of the implementation of the National Child Labour Project. ‘
- Ratifying International Labour Organization Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 in 2017, the Indian government further demonstrated its commitment to the elimination of child labour including those engaged in hazardous occupations.
- The Ministry of Labour and Employment-operated online portal allows government officials, law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organisations to share information and coordinate on child labour cases at the national, State and local levels for effective enforcement of child labour laws.
WAY FORWARD :
- Requires right level of commitment among all the relevant stake holders.
- Strategic partnerships and collaborations involving government, employers, trade unions, community-based organisations and child labour families.
- A strong alliance paving our way towards ending child labour in all its forms by 2025 as countries around the world have agreed to in Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.
- 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,Kailash Satyarthi Children Foundation 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.
All the stakeholders must rise and pledge to ‘Take Action against Child Labour’ as a part of the UN’s declaration of 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.