India is sadly the home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. There are close to 13 million child labourers under 14 (Census 2001). Can we completely eliminate child labour from India? Well that is a desirable goal, but the fact is that in the given socio-economic scenario which is prevalent in our country, it is virtually impossible to do away with child labour. Employers exploit children by paying them much less than what they would pay an adult and the future of the working children is ruined as they will not be able to attend schools and get educated for a better future.
What prompted me to write this blog was an incident that I came across on streets of Mumbai. I saw a small girl nearly 4-5 years of age, selling cigarettes in a shop. A guy came and bought a pack of cigarettes from her. I was so appalled to see that the small child, who hardly knew how to speak, was well aware of all the brands of cigarettes and tobacco products. Besides this, when a smoker smokes in front of these children, they become passive smokers and are prone to severe diseases. This is just one of the incidents where I witnessed small children are made to work instead of education. There are several of instances where children are not even paid, but forced to work. Children are involved in illegal activities, such as selling of drugs, alcohols, human-trafficking, etc.
Such children have seen so much of struggle throughout their life that when grow up, they develop a criminal bent of mind and hence this is one of the major reasons of increasing crime rates in our country. To eliminate child labour, education is mandatory prerequisite. Education for all the children will remain a distant dream until and unless child labour is completely eliminated
Though elimination of child labour is an impossible task in the current socio-economic scenario, the Indian government is committed to the task of ensuring that no child remains illiterate, hungry and without medical care. When this ideal will be achieved is a million dollar question.
Dishika Malhotra SCIT MBA ITBM (2013-15)