Can we eliminate child labour? Though it is a desirable goal the fact remains that in the given socio-economic scenario that is prevalent in our country, it is virtually impossible to do away with child labour. One cannot dispute the fact that employers exploit children by paying them much less than what they would pay in 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.
But when one considers the economic compulsions of the families which force the children to work, one will be compelled to admit that elimination of child labour will be a distant dream as long as the socio-economic status of these families is not improved.
Realizing the harm caused by child labour, the Indian Government made laws to protect children from exploitation at work and to improve their working condition. Besides, a comprehensive law called Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. 1986, was promulgated to prohibit employment of children in certain hazardous occupations and processes.
In 1987, the Indian government formulated National Police on Child Labour to protect the interests of children and focus on general development programmes for the benefit of children. As a part of this policy National Child Labour Projects have been set up in different parts of the country to rehabilitate child labour. Under these projects, special schools are established to prove non-formal education, vocational training, supplementary nutrition etc. to children who are withdrawn from employment.
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.
The development countries are exerting pressure on developing countries like India to eliminate child labour. According to the current thinking the developed countries may stop imports of those goods that involve child labour in their production. In some of our cottage industries like making of carpets, children are employed in larger numbers. These carpets, which are being exported, may soon lose their market abroad if the producers of these carpets persist with child labour.
Child labour is, no doubt, an evil that should be done away with at the earliest. The prevalence of child labour reflects very badly on society that is not able to stop this evil. But in a society where many households may have to suffer the pangs of hunger if the children are withdrawn from work, beggars can’t be choosers. These families have to send their children to work, even if the future of these innocents is ruined, as that is the only choice open for them to survive in this world. Therefore, unless the socio-economic status of the poor families is improved, India has to live with child labour.