Children toil away as India observes day against child labour (June 12 is World Day Against Child Labour)

June 11th, 2010 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) Come Saturday and it will be yet another World Day Against Child Labour, a day that holds little meaning for thousands of children who toil away in eateries, homes and on the roads in the national capital and elsewhere.
Life continues unchanged for the children as NGOs continue to cry hoarse over better implementation of the law that bans child labour.

Eight-year-old Sunny works at a tea vendor’s shop in south Delhi. Serving tea to scores of customers who come to the shop everyday and later scrubbing the tea pot, his is an all too familiar sight that one comes across at any place.

“I have no idea what child labour day means. Yes, I want to go to school and study but my father is ill and can’t go to work. So I have to work here the whole day to earn some money to help run the house,” Sunny told IANS.

Durga, a flower seller at the Moti Bagh traffic signal, said she has no choice but to make her children work in order to make ends meet.

“I am not aware of any law that prevents children from working. I have five children and all are below 14 years of age. We all work together to survive, otherwise how will I be able to feed all of them?” she asked.

A large number of children are also trafficked from states like Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh to cities like Delhi and Mumbai and made to work in sweatshops for a paltry wage.

Seven-year-old Saleem, who was trafficked from his home in Bihar to Delhi by a middleman on the pretext of providing him with education, said: “The uncle who brought me here a year back had promised my parents that he will send me to school and give me some light work so that I can send some money back home.”

Now rescued by the child rights NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), he said: “Once I reached Delhi, I was put to work in a small factory making embroidery clothes. It was a small room and there were six other boys like me, working for 14 hours everyday and paid little or no money at all.”

Umesh Gupta of BBA said: “The children after being rescued are given release certificates under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act which entitles them to a rehabilitation package of Rs.20,000.”

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, which was implemented in 2006, bans the employment of children in eateries and as domestic helps.

As per government estimates, there are approximately 12.6 million child labourers in the country. However, civil society puts the number much higher at 60 million.

An official of Save the Children, another child rights organisation, said: “The law bans children below 14 years of age to work in eateries and as domestic helps but is silent on the employment of kids in agriculture. This is despite the fact that agriculture employs a huge chunk of kids.”

“Therefore, the law must be amended to include agriculture in its ambit and implement it effectively,” the official added.

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