By Dhiren Ch Doley

It may be shocking to hear Child Labor as a threat to the nation’s future and progress, thinking is it a kind of terrorism or an explosive. Let me explain it statistically. The 2001 National Census of India estimated the total number of child laborers, aged 5 to 14, to be at 1.26 crores (12666377), out of the total children population 25.2 in that age group. The 66th round NSSO Survey in 2009- 10 has showed a considerable reduction in child laborersup to49.84 lakhs (49,83,871) and the 2011 Census shows it 43.53 lakhs (43,53247). Even though the concern statistics show a considerable reduction of child labor population, it still poses a challenge before the nation. It is still a shockto see after almost seven decades of the nation’s independence.It’s a question of the nation’s future. One of our most common saying is ‘today’s children are tomorrow’s citizen’. In other words, the children of today will have to take the responsibility of the nation tomorrow. Just imagine the children those who are deprived of their childhood, their potential and dignity, who are deprived of basic education, will take over the responsibility of leading the country. How can we expect a strong nation with strong economy and governancefrom the citizens who grew as child laborers! If the situation continues, we can expect but a desperate fate for the nation in future. And therefore I say Child Labor is a threat to our nation’s future, it’s a deadly disease which needs immediate response.

It is also a challenge of our national prestige. It hampers the positioning of the country in the international arena. India undeniably the second largest contributor the World child labor population after Sub Saharan Africa region in percentage wise but single largest in number.

The child labor talks about children working in private household, organized and unorganized farms, street activities which may be hazardous and semi hazardous. Some are deployed full time and some are part, some are paid and some are not. They do not get proper nutrition or care. The Civil Society Organizations and Right Activists are demanding authorities to recognize all children who are not in school as child labor because all such children are potential for deployment in labor. According to a UNESCO report in 2015, Out of School Children(OOSC) across the globe is 123 million (61 million children of primary school age, 60 million of lower secondary school age) where India’s sole contribution is  11.9million i.e. 9.67 percent and all these children are potential child laborers, no doubt.

Child Labor and Poverty move in a vicious cycle. Illiteracy is the major contributing factor in maintaining this cycle. The Government of India has undertaken so many measures and formulated Laws. There are provisions in the Constitution of India to prohibit and eliminate child labor from the country. Article 24 of the Indian Constitution, The Child Labour (Prohibittion and Regulation) Act, 1986 and its amendment in 2016 are worthy to mention in this regard. The Right to (Free and Compulsory) Education Act, 2009 is a very lofty effort of the Government of India to bring all children between 6 to 14 years to school barring them from under age labor. The Government of India has formed departments and commissions such as“The Women and Child Development Department”, “National Commission for Protection of Child Rights” etc. in order to abolish child labor, facilitating children to enjoy their childhood with rights and entitlements etc.

But why the issue of child labor is still posing a threat to the nation’s progress? The execution of policies and the enforcement of laws should come out of the formal or legalistic boundaries and involve Civil Societies and philanthropic individuals in the processes. The Civil Societies are very much enthusiastic but alone. The boundary should be broken down, Government agencies and the CSOs need to develop a clearer and closer relationship for the cause. The poverty alleviations programs should be intensified, Social Security Programs should reach the real beneficiaries. As long as poverty exists, Child Labor issue will exist. In a hungry family, food is first. The Mid Day Meal in school is not attractive enough to bring children to school as long as there is fear of no dinner. The present working style of NGOs is also focusing on awareness creation, very good effort. But awareness is needed for the middle class children employer, agriculture and producing farms only. Awareness has minimum impact in the poorest and vulnerable families.

School environment needs to be reorganized into child friendly spaces. Except some model schools, major chunk of the government schools cannot attract children. One school vs. one teacher formula is outdated and 30 students vs. 1 teacher formula is still a dream for many villages. According to ASER Report, 2016 only 53.0 % of schools meet the pupil-teacher standard ration set by the RTE Act, 2009. The school buildings, school compounds, locations, infra structures and even the day to day class room management should have a magnetic aroma to welcome children’s spontaneity.

The coordination between the police and Child Protection Units should be re strengthened. The Medias, both print and electronics should have a dedicated program or page for awareness creation and raising issues and cases of Child Labor. The frequently heard voices of student bodies should pay attention to what is happening to million children in the country. Most importantly, the parliamentarians should not remain mum on the causes of children as they are going to hand over the responsibility of the nation to the children in the near future.

  • ASER Report, 2016 (

About the author: Dhiren Ch Doley is a Development Practitioner and a poet. His poems are published in various magazines, e-media. He is serving among the poor communities of Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal State of India at present. Mr. Dhiren Doley has a heart for the poor, especially children. The present article talks about the issue of child labour in India and its possible corrective ways.

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