Indian workforce of children on May Day 2011
According to government estimates, an astounding 42.02% of the Indian
workforce is children between the ages of 5 and 14. This is in direct
contravention of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. This figure of 42.02% does not include those who fall outside the
purview of the Act - children between 15 and 18 years. In spite of child
labour being banned in hazardous industries, 17 million children are engaged in child labour, according to official sources.
Unofficially, the numbers are much higher. India continue to register some of the highest numbers of
child labourers in the world.
About 77% of Indians live on less than Rs20 a day; lives of utter
destitution such that families are forced to send their children to work. Underpaid, overworked, starving, and with little or no access to
healthcare, sending a child to work is not a choice for any family. It is a basic step for survival.
Child Fund India executive director Dola Mohapatra said many girls are taken from Rajasthan to Gujarat every year to work in Bt cotton fields.
?Children are used because they have nimble hands suited to pick Bt Cotton,? said Mohapatra.?The condition of boys is not good as well,? he added.
"The children have to wake up early and work in muddy fields laced with
pesticides. They are also abused by middlemen," he said.
Poverty, debt burden major reasons for child labour
Nearly 50 per cent of the child labour in the country is in to employment due to poverty and debt burden of their families, says a social audit on child
labour. Problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence, financial bankruptcy, sudden deaths or crippling of
parents and desertions were the reasons for children to quit education and take up work, the audit by World Vision India said.
The exercise found that 1,210 children were slogging as labourers in the eight audited zones. Among them, 762 were in the “hazardous sector” under the Child Labour
(Prevention and Regulation) Act, 1986. 16 Labour Inspectors, in whose jurisdiction most of the child labourers were found, had not filed cases against employers. Though boys slightly outnumbered girls in the overall group of identified child
labourers, in sectors such as domestic work and babysitting, girls outnumbered boys.
In sectors such as beedi-rolling and match and explosives industry, there was some level of gender parity. Boys
outnumbered girls in some occupations and processes such as construction, shops and establishments and the hospitality sector. In the automobile industry, boys were in exclusive group. There was no instance of girls working in this sector.
The survey found that 17 per cent of those identified was in the informal economy,
without any stable employment, but nevertheless doing varying occupations in
accordance with demand and supply, mostly doing seasonal jobs and otherwise helping their parents in household chores. About 26 per cent of those identified said they were not interested in education.
Children work in inhuman conditions in Rajasthan mines
Children illegally employed in Rajasthan mines are being forced to work in inhuman conditions that is severely affecting their physical and psychological health, said a report.
"The working conditions in the mines are hazardous and safety arrangements are poor, putting the health and safety of these children at risk," said
the report prepared by two NGOs -- the Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) and Health, Environment and Development Consortium
(HEDCON). Most of the children are employed even before they are 14 years old, made to work for up to 10 hours daily and paid nominal wages in return, the
report noted. The children are denied basic facilities like safe drinking water, toilets and protection from the scorching sun. They are made to work seven days a
week, without rest or extra wages. As a result of these trying conditions, the child labourers are prone to tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse, which further worsens their psychological and physical health.
A life of daily toil and drudgery and without hope for the future has also started to deeply affect the psyche of the children, leaving them emotionally shattered. This leads to listlessness and depression, the report said.
The practice continues in India's largest state despite stiff laws against child
labour. Mine owners seek to reap the richest dividend possible from the state's rich mineral resources. There are about 64 various kinds of minerals produced here, contributing an annual revenue of more than Rs.3 billion.
Rajasthan marbles are in great demand all over India. While the state boasts of large reserves (some 1,100 million
tonnes) of good quality marble, about 95 percent of the country's processing units are based here.
The report cites numerous incidents of child labour in such mines of Makrana and Jodhpur. Most of the children say poverty and resultant economic necessity forces
them to work here. In many cases, children have to work due to the illness or death of their fathers, the family's breadwinner.Sometimes, the children are also
forced to take up a job to compensate meager incomes in large families, the report noted.
As per government estimates,
nearly 42.02% of the Indian workforce is children between the ages of 5 and 14.
Nearly 50 per cent of the child labour in the country is in to employment due to poverty and debt burden of their
Gem polishing Industry,
Children ages between six to eleven years engage in gem polishing with
the sunrise in the morning, after procuring water for the family, up to sun-set in the evening; wages: nil for two years and
Rs. 30/- per month thereafter, going upto Rs. 150/-; place of work: four feet long piece of wood for three children to sit on.
Because of powdered dust in the atmosphere at the work place, breathing
troubles start within a year or two. The children grind the gems on the whetstone and after that the gems are shaped. As the gems are very small, they can be handled easily by the small and sensitive fingers of a child.
Experienced workers test the gems and pas them on to the child workers for polishing; they use
oxidizing chemicals to give the stones a shine. The children are generally put to work for cutting, polishing and shaping
the stones. The grinding work is best done by children. Female children belong to both Hindu and Muslim communities and are treated even worse
than the male children. In Jaipur this industry is mainly concentrated in the
Ghatgate, Ramganj Bazar, Galtagate, Chandpol, Gangopal, Chaardarwaza, Sansar Chand Road, Babu Ka Teeba, Aarsh Nagar Stand colonies.
The Rajasthan government has not yet conducted a survey of the gem industry. Some NGOs have some data. According to them there are about 72 to 80 thousand workers engaged in this industry. Child workers are the
largest group of the total workers. About 85 percent are Muslims. About 30 percent of the workers are less than 14 years of age and amongst them girls are in a majority. The country earns
about Rs. 1400 crores every year through their exports, the largest part of exports going to the U.S.A.
UNICEF, which is concerned with the welfare of children on behalf of the United Nations, has also not yet taken any concrete steps in
Rajasthan. In January, 1996, the gem industry, with the help of the state labour department and UNICEF, held a three day seminar at
Jaipur. This was attended by all the district Labour Inspectors and some NGOs. It was decided to conduct a survey in the district of Jaipur and
Udaipur. During the last six moths no concrete steps have been taken to implement the decision. The Government apathy has not been
broken. About 17 percent of the child labour force in this industry, who come from families steeped in poverty, hunger, illiteracy and helplessness, suffer from breathing troubles, throat and nose infections, pneumonia and
tuberculoses, etc. This is the result of unhygienic and crowded work place, humidity, cramped sheds and malnutrition due to insufficient wages.
The workers have to use chemicals like aluminum oxide, cerium oxide, stannic oxide, zirconium oxide, etc. The use of these chemicals effects
the health of the workers adversely as no steps are taken by the employers to educate the workers about them, nor are they provided with any protective gear.
We could not get hold of any health survey report but the children generally reported pain in the joints, dizziness, heaviness in the head, sight disorders, back pain, shoulder pain, and finger deformities.
The business is generally run by the Marwaris and Gujarati business people and they directly siphon-off about 60 percent of the fruits of the labour of these working children and others. Thought amongst the workers the
majority are Muslims, among the owners they are a small minority. It has been observed that the labour department generally prosecuted
people under the provisions of old laws. In this case old laws do no identify the gem trade as hazardous. Children are working up to 10 to 14 hours a day,
but the practice is not checked. 43 percent families do not have any literate person. Girls are not sent to school even if they want to.
One can legitimately ask how the National Human Rights Commission and the courts can compel the State government to perform its duty? How can the
government he compelled not to play with the future of lakhs of children?
Children in loom and carpet Industry
Jamwa Pamgarh Tehsil which falls in the Dausa
37 km from Jaipur in Loksabha constituency in a valley there are about 13 hundred wooden looms manufacturing rugs in the villages of
Makchaughari, Kharkara, Khaurani, Jodhrala, Palrikhurd, Bans, Goreth, Andhi, Raisar, and Gurjarthari, etc.
Girls and boys belonging to Meena, Raighar, Harijan, Gurjar, Thakur such castes work in this industry from 8 in the morning to 6 in the evening so that the families may earn a few rupees. One can see
Pappo, Phula, Kishore, Suman, and so many other unnamed girls who are fighting the battle of poverty with their delicate and infant fingers on the looms getting in return rupees 5 to 15 per day. This meagre amount is enough for
the parents to hypothecate the life of the children with the labour contractor who regularly advances very small sum to make his bookings. The
life of the child progresses through a childhood full of fear, work, anxiety, sexual exploitation. This journey from generation to generation is the root of child
labour, though there are many other causes also which play their own role in perpetuating poverty. Not many years ago this region was not so poor. With the advent of
development programmes the present state of poverty started raising its head! Naturally the victims were the poor belonging to lower castes and groups the largest number to lower castes and groups, the largest number being that of children, and
amongst them girls.
Under the present model of economic development in our country the poorer sections of the society have to bear suffering and the upper sections enjoy its fruits.
Carpet industry is an old industry but the globalisation of the economy has resulted in the introduction of child labour in it. In
U.P. many NGOs took an active interest against use of child labour and attracted the attention of the developed countries that were importing carpets from
Mirzapur. They threatened to stop the import of carpets made with the child labour and consequently the State Government and the Central Government had to tighten the
implementation of laws preventing child labour.
The Rajasthan Government, on the other hand, is still overlooking the problem. The Labour Department of the State has showed no concern for the welfare of the children working in carpet making.
They have no statistics. According to Shri Joseph Gathia about 30% of the total carpet trade is centered in Rajasthan
and the use of child labour is widespread. The State Government as well as the traders engaged in the manufacture of carpets are earning huge amounts.
Amongst the child workers in this trade in Rajasthan the percentage of girls is about 90, whereas in Mirzapur the percentage of girls is less than 10, This makes the problem of investigation and consequent action
more difficult. It also underlines the necessity of preventive work as exploitation of girls has more dimensions than in the case of boys. Pushing the girls
up to the margin of existence also condemns the future generation. A very large percentage of the child workers is from tribal sections. The tribals are being
exploited otherwise also. The total result is that after about 50 years of independence this section of society is at the lowest rung of development. One hopes that the United Front government will wake up the
problem and take some action.
Child slavery thriving in Indian cotton industry
India has the largest area under cotton cultivation in the world and has been a pioneer in developing hybrid cotton seeds for commercial use.
The Indian cottonseed industry is also marked by the highest proportion of child labour in its workforce.The local seed farmer
employ young girl children for Cross- pollination work
because with their delicate fingers they can handle this work better than adults. They also work more intensively than adults. The wage rates for children are far lower than adult wages.
They can also reduce their labour costs considerably if they hire girl children.
Thus the majority of the labour force in this labour intensive sector is children, primarily girls, preferred on counts of minimising costs
through low wages , higher levels of productivity that can be extracted from children by way of longer hours (8 to 12 hours) and more intensive work
regimes, and also effective control. Citing a recent report, the exploitation of child labour in the industry is linked with larger
market forces; a multi-tiered, complex economic relationship, masking social and legal responsibility. The nature and the scale of the problem also hold
implications for child trafficking, and conditions of migrant workers.
United Nations has labeled India as the world capital for child labor
On October 28, 2007 a British newspaper The Observer splashed an undercover
investigative report across two pages detailing child labor in a textile factory that produced garments for American retail chain Gap
Inc GapKids line. The damning report alleged that children as young as 10 toiled in conditions described as
close to slavery they were observed working from dawn until late in the evening in dimly lit rows of garage-like tailoring units
flowing with excrement from a clogged toilet. The children also told the newspaper that they were routinely threatened, and those that cried were hit with a rubber pipe or forced to take an oily sock in their mouths.
The revelations provoked outrage in Western nations, where people have grown accustomed to reading about India
rise as an economic power, and rocked San Francisco-based Gap, which adopted rigorous social audit systems several years ago to weed out child labor and improve the working conditions in its production
processes. We strictly prohibit the use of child labor. This is a nonnegotiable for us
and we are deeply concerned and upset by this allegation,
Marka Hansen, Gap North America president said in a statement issued the same day The Observer published its report.
The company detailed the findings in a audit that year, which revealed some of its suppliers engaged in abuses like forced labor, physical punishment, coercion, child labor and paying workers less than
minimum wage. Gap followed the report by severing ties with 136 vendors that it determined
manufactured garments in deplorable working conditions, and in 2006 the company ended contracts
with an additional 23 suppliers that were found to be in violation of the company's
own Code of Vendor Conduct and international labor standards.
Upon learning of the situation at the Shahpur Jat factory, Gap destroyed the garments that were produced there and canceled its contract with the vendor, which Hansen did not identify. The scandal highlights the widespread problem of child labor in India, which the United
Nations has labeled the world capital for child labor
the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, estimates that India is home to 40 million to 50 million workers under the age of 14 who account for roughly 20 percent of the country's
gross domestic product and raised concerns about large retail chains outsourcing their clothing production to India. Some of the largest Western retail clothing brands source their products from India,
including Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., J.C. Penney & Co., Hennes & Mauritz AB (a trendy Swedish chain operating as H&M) and
Mothercare, a British chain that sells clothing and other products for babies and young children. The Indian government officially responded to the allegations contained in The Observer report Oct. 30, when Commerce and Industry Minister
Kamal Nath suggested at a global business conference in New Delhi that they displayed ulterior motives.