Looking to the condition of children living with their parents in slums in metropolitan cities, or in the abodes of the poor or among the landless laborers in the rural areas one can guess the tragic fate of these buds that fade when they had to bloom.
Most of the poor people in all castes and communities have a large number of children. It becomes rather obligatory for them to engage them in some remunerative work. In big cities and in smaller ones too one would find children between the age of four and twelve working in roadside restaurants and tea stalls. They hardly get rupees five to ten a day—not sufficient even for their own meals. Many of them stay in the restaurant tenements during nights too and are sexually exploited.
Children of the same age group work in match industry in Sivakasi, quarries in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, carpet industry in Uttar Pradesh, brassware industry in Moradabad.
According to a U. N. study the number of such children in India was more than 115 million in the nineties. They could not have the joys of childhood. Worse is the condition of the girl child. She has to start working in the household and the fields in the rural areas at the age of four. The exploitation of the girl child is so much that forty lakh of the one crore twenty lakh born every year die before they are fifteen.
In this developed age 1000 of them died in Delhi alone in 1991 before their birth. Aminocentesis has become a curse for them. Sexual assault on girls between the age of 4 and 7 is a common feature in India.
According to a Bureau of Police Research and Development 1, 90,567 children were arrested in India in 1985. More than one—third of them belonged to the 7-12 age group. More than nine thousand were below 12 and 777 of these were girls. An enquiry instituted by the Chief Justice of India and conducted by a District Judge revealed that most of the children in jails are sexually assaulted by hard core criminals and even by the Jail staff. As there are no remand homes or Juvenile Jails in most of the districts in India lakhs of children are interned in regular jails. A large number rot there for years as under trials. When they come out many of them are themselves hard core criminals. A large number suffers from venereal diseases. Now many of them may catch AIDS too.
The fate of children in almost all the Third World countries is the same. According to a report of International Labor Organization (ILO) 200 million children below 15 have to earn their livelihood. According to an ILO expert the number may be 600 to 800 million i.e. equal to the whole population of India in 1990. The ILO report tells that 80% of Pakistani carpets are made by children who also work in India, Nepal and Afghanistan to make rugs. The same report says they cut diamonds in slums in Gujarat and Mumbai, cut cocoa beans, make T-shirts in Bangladesh, handbags in Thailand. They work with dangerous chemicals in Moroccan tanneries, wash earth and gravel to separate gold in Peruvian rain forests and work in Egypt in jasmine fields.
According to an Anti-slavery International estimate, 25 million children are employed as slaves on the Indian sub—continent, 8 million work as slaves in Andes, the region from Panama to Tierra del Fuego in America. Thousands of them work on Brazilian plantations to pay off their parents’ debts and thousands of these little ones are slave like servants in South African households.
A survey published in an esteemed English daily praises UNO for promulgating the ‘Convention of the Rights of Children’ .The bright patch is that the charter of “The rights of children to protection from economic exploitation was signed by a large number of countries next only to the human rights charter’. The pity is, as the report says, the laws and charters are just to be instituted not to be implemented. The poor child remains the worst sufferer.