Editorial: Chronicles of an innocence lost

As per data from Census 2011 put together by UNICEF, India has 10.1 mn children involved in child labour, of which 5.6 mn comprise boys and 4.5 mn comprise girls.
Representative image
Representative imageReuters

We look up to children as the future torch-bearers of a nation. They carry the burden of parental hopes and aspirations in more ways than one. However in the backdrop of Children’s Day, which is celebrated on the birth anniversary of Chacha Nehru and was observed this week, it is pertinent to ask — what kind of society are we building for young Indians, whether it’s a milieu that fosters imagination, creativity, and curiosity; or whether we are just unloading our own frailties on those who are next in line, whose futures might be more determined by privilege as opposed to opportunity and merit.

As per data from Census 2011 put together by UNICEF, India has 10.1 mn children involved in child labour, of which 5.6 mn comprise boys and 4.5 mn comprise girls. Over 152 mn children globally are part of the labour force, which makes it about 1 in every 10 children. And despite the rates of child labour coming down over the past few decades, many are still employed today as bonded labourers, child soldiers and subjected to human trafficking as well. As per the NCRB, in 2020, just about 705 children were rescued from the clutches of child labour, based on 476 FIRs filed under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. In India, these dismal results are due to laxity in the implementation of anti-child labour legislation.

It might be recalled that in Ramanathapuram district last year, four minor siblings employed as goatherds were rescued with the help of an NGO. Their parents had handed them over to a man for a sum of Rs 62,000 as they had fallen on hard times in the aftermath of the pandemic. Earlier last year, in a report compiled by Campaign against Child Labour – Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, it was highlighted that child labour in Tamil Nadu had shot by as much as 180% among vulnerable communities.

Around 3,861 children rescued from workplaces across Tamil Nadu are pursuing their education in 213 special schools under the National Child Labour Programme (NCLP), which was subsequently subsumed with the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan by the Centre. Unfortunately, in the absence of funds from the Union government, youngsters recently rescued from child labour cannot be admitted into these bridge schools, after which they could be mainstreamed into regular educational institutions. This had led to a spike in dropout rates among kids vulnerable to child labour in Tamil Nadu. As per a study conducted in 2018 by the National Sample Survey Office, about 32 mn children remain out of school in India.

Tamil Nadu has taken note and is working towards addressing child labour and reducing the dropout rate in schools. The State is planning on introducing an initiative similar to the NCLP, which has been lauded by activists. A concern expressed by NGOs is regarding the increase of stipend for students studying at these Special Training Centres. This is to ensure they are not compelled into taking up jobs again. Stakeholders have also called for the State government to identify areas that have a low net enrolment ratio among adolescent children in schools and focussing on improving the situation.

Citizens also have a role to play. Many a time, for the sake of convenience, we tend to look the other way when injustices play out even in our own homes. And if one happens to come across an instance where he/she witnesses child labour being employed, ensure that it’s called out and dealt with in a swift manner.

Visit news.dtnext.in to explore our interactive epaper!

Download the DT Next app for more exciting features!

Click here for iOS

Click here for Android

Related Stories

No stories found.
DT next
www.dtnext.in