This World Day Against Child Labour, let us look at child labour scenario in the India’s largest state. Though it is widely known that child labour figures in India paint a sorry picture, the staistics in Uttar Pradesh show a particularly grim scenario.
- One in every 11 children in India is engaged in child labour
- India has 1.13 crore child labourers between 5-14 years (Census 2011)
- One out of five child labourers is from Uttar Pradesh
- UP has seen the least reduction in child labour numbers since 2009 (only 7.9%)
- Every 8 minutes, a child goes missing in India (District Crime Record Bureau Data Series)
- Adolescents between 15-17 years of age, doing hazardous work form 62.8% of the overall child labour population
- 56% of the working adolescents are no longer studying
Though child labour is a pan-India phenomenon, the figures in Uttar Pradesh particularly paint a dismal picture. The state accounts for the maximum cases of child labour, constituting approximately 20 percent of the country’s working child force. Sadly, the practice has only been decreasing at an abysmal rate of 2.2 percent per year from 2001 to 2011 (Child Rights and You).
Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of child labour cases in the age group of 10-14 years, according to a report published in The Times of India. The report also states that UP is third in terms of the worst record for children between 10-18 years of age.
What Are the Major Causes of Child Labour in the State?
Uttar Pradesh is a big contributor to the national food stock. Agriculture supports the economy of the state, which is also the sector that employs maximum number of child labourers. Sugarcane is the most important cash crop of the state – it comes as no surprise then that sugarcane industry employs a large number of child labourers.
Other than its booming agrarian economy, Uttar Pradesh has also witnessed massive industrialization in the recent past. It boasts of a thriving electronic industry, has cement plants and well-established cottage industries. The presence of these industries make child labour a reality in the state. More so because children are a cheap source of labour and are, in most cases, unaware of their rights.
Major Employers of Child Labour
80% of working children are based in rural areas. Three out of four of these children are engaged in agricultural sector, in practices such as cotton growing. Many are also employed as domestic aids in houses.
Factories such as carpet-making, bangle-making, embroidery, carpet-industry, bidi-rolling, matchbox making etc continue to employ children.
Gender dynamics play a crucial role in the distribution of child labour. While girls are mostly employed as domestic help, young boys are exposed to hazardous occupations and wage labour.
Poverty in the State Leads to Child Labour
According to a World Bank report, there are approximately 60 million poor people in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The report also mentions that the state is the home to the largest number of India’s poor (as poverty reduction in Uttar Pradesh has been slower than rest of the country.)
Child labour therefore plays a key role in supplementing incomes of the families. In fact, one of the main reasons for the widespread child labour in the state is the burden of debt which forces parents to send their children to work. Besides, low literacy rate in the state further makes way for child labour.
National Child Labour Project
The National Child Labour Project (NCLP) along with Grant–in–Aid (GIA) are the schemes aimed at rehabilitating child labourers. The scheme has been active since 1988. The purpose of the program is to rehabilitate children working in hazardous occupations to formal education system.
Of the total Rs 137.43 crore released as grant for the year 2011-12, Uttar Pradesh was the largest beneficiary. It also resulted in maximum number of children getting rescued from the state. However, the situation demands a lot more.
Loopholes in the Law
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016, the law which is supposed to shield children from the perils of child labour, suffers from several flaws. What seems progressive at the surface is laden with inconsistencies when we dig deeper.
Besides, the definition of hazardous industry that the law entails is very limited. Brick kilns, cotton farms chemical mixing units have all been slashed as hazardous occupations. Sadly, these sectors are the largest employers of child labourers.
The section 2, Clause 5 allows child labour in “family or family enterprises” or allows the child to be “an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry”. This is particularly dangerous as this constitutes most of child labour.
Speaking on the ‘family enterprise’ clause in the amendment to the law, he said,
The definition of family and family enterprises is flawed. This bill uses Indian family values to justify economic exploitation of children. It is misleading the society by blurring the lines between learning in a family and working in a family enterprise.Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Laureate and child’s rights activist
Where Does It End?
Child labour remains to be one of the most complex problems that plague India. It threatens the future of innumerable children who are the future of the country. The fact that it continues unabated in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state, is a big concern.
The incumbent government in UP is riding high on its promise of development. Child rights must not get marginalised this time around.