Millennium Post

Child labour: Dimensions, determinants

The research study on “Dimensions and Determinants of Child Labour in Small-Scale Commercial Establishments: A Study in Delhi” conducted at Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi, has examined factors contributing to child labour in Delhi, living and working conditions of children engaged in small-scale commercial establishments, and has critically examined the various provisions of all legislations/policies and programmes prohibiting and regulating child labour. Besides that, there are various recommendations for abolishing/regulating the incidence of child labour.

According to 2011 Census, 12.6 million children in the age group of 5 to 14 are employed in our country. Recently the International Labour Organization (ILO, 2015) estimated that there are around 88 million children globally; the number of child labourers in India was 5.7 million between the age group of 5 to 17 years.

The child labourers are spread throughout the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The census 2001 reported 41,899 children in the age group of 5 to 14 years were working in Delhi. However, according to Census 2011,  26, 899 children are working in Delhi. The census data reveals that the number of girl child labourers are increasing in Delhi. It might be reason that domestic work is not banned in Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. It is exempted both in the 1986 and 2016 legislation.

However, the estimates of other agency show that there is a large number of children engaged in jobs in Delhi.

The trends of sex ratio among child labour during 1961-2011 census shows that the girls are at the risk of becoming child labourers. These children are mostly migrated from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They are found at all the three railway stations in Delhi - New Delhi Railway Station, Old Delhi Railway Station, and Nizammudin Railway Station. Children in these areas are mostly working in tea shops, dhabas, as vendors, shoe-polishers, porters, and rag pickers. The trans-Yamuna area is a major concentration of child labour. The children in this area are engaged in construction work, rag picking, garage work and work as domestic servants and as service boys in tea stalls and dhabas, and apprentices in the tailoring shops etc. Many children that are found near Jama Masjid, Chandi Chowk area are engaged similarly. 

A number of children are found working around Connaught Place as vendors selling glasses, flowers, garlands, and also polishing shoes. In Karol Bagh, too, children are mostly employed as vendors selling eatables, cold drinking, water, cosmetics, handkerchief, etc. Some are found working in shops, tea stalls, dhabas, and garages etc. Besides that, a large number of children in Delhi are found working in zari industry, leather industry, lock industry, and jewellery sector. 

A majority of the children working in zari industry are found in Seelampur, Ghonda, Nurelai, Gautam Puri, Chowanbengar, Kureji, Kalian Bagh (Trilokpuri), Sangam Vihar, Khanpur extension, Kotla Mubarakpur, Sarai Kale Khan, Mehruli, Nizammudin Basti, Uttam Nagar, and Janakpuri. In leather industry, a large number of children work in Sadar Bazar (Hanuman Gali) and Paharganj. In lock industry, child labourers are found in Sakur Ki Dandi (Near Ramlila Ground), LNJP Colony, etc. In jewellery sector, child labourers are found in Darayaganj, Karol Bagh and other localities. A large number of rag pickers are found in Chilagown (Near Mayur Vihar), Yamuna Pusta (both sides of ITO bridge), Seelampur, Badarpur, Mitapur, Jaitpur, and C-Block of Jahangir Puri. 

Child labourers are found working in vegetable Market in Azadpur Mandi, as well as in Okhla Mandi. A large number of child labourers are working at motor garages in Indira Market, Trilokpuri. In Dhaba/tea stalls, children are found working in North Delhi, Kashmere Gate, Jama Masjid, and ITO areas.

The findings of the study reflected how the laws exist to regulate and prohibit employment of children in hazardous occupations, but do not completely prohibit the use of child labour. The inadequate legislation, inadequate state mechanism, as well as insufficient enforcement is responsible for the continuation and perpetuation of the phenomenon of child labour not just in Delhi but in the entire country. 

The recently passed Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 has permitted children to work for their family based enterprises. The new legislation has also reduced the number of banned professions. The previously banned professions like tanning, bangle making, zari works, carpets, domestic work, and numerous other professions are now permitted. The previous legislation which contained a long list of banned occupations was practically difficult to implement. The new legislation will certainly be most effective in reducing child labour in most hazardous occupations. The new legislation also raised the penalties for employing children from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 50,000 and a jail term of two years. This will certainly mitigate the propagation of child labour.

The study reveals that the most important factor which leads children to work was supplementing the family income. Besides that, family pressure, large family size, poverty, lack of interest in studies and school drop out, migration of parents, self-desire, death of parent/s were found as other important determinants (as reported by child labourers). In addition to these, illiteracy of parents, occupation of parents in petty jobs, employers’ preference for hiring children were reported to be primary reasons for children’s engagement in jobs.

The study reveals that the working conditions of child labourers were very appalling. The majority of such children were found to be engaged in unskilled jobs doing full-time work with petty wages. The children were put through longer hours of work by their employers for longer than 12 hours in some cases. The living conditions of the child labourers were very deplorable, with most of them staying in slum clusters in unhygienic atmosphere without proper sanitation facilities. 

The study manifests the denial of rights of those children engaged in small-scale commercial establishments in terms of survival and development, education, leisure and play, opportunity for developing physical and mental talents, and protection from abuse and neglect which eventually impair their growth and development.

Child labour being a very critical socio-economic demographic problem which can be regulated and abolished by multiplicity of actions, and active participation and interventions by the government, municipal corporations of Delhi, non-governmental organisations, civil society, interventions of Judiciary, print and electronic media, civil society, participation of sensible citizens. The coordinated efforts of the government, non-governmental organisations, civil society, employers and social workers through active people’s participation are likely to help in ameliorating or controlling the problem. 

The study has emphasised on the promotion of income generation activities, provision of social safety nets, educational opportunities for all, awareness generation, strict implementation of the legislations, involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions, implementation of fair trade labeling initiatives, provision of proper housing/avenues for recreation /purposeful utilisation of leisure time. There is also an urgent need for political mobilisation and aggressive campaign for abolishing child labour.

(Dr. Bishnu Mohan Dash is Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar
College, Delhi University. Views expressed are strictly personal.)
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