Pointing to a rise in child labour in domestic units, the National
Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is seeking to
bring households under the ambit of labour laws. India is
estimated to have at least 13 million child labourers.
"There is growth in child labour, especially in the informal
sector, the household units. The child labour law doesn't cover
this sector. We want the household sector to be brought under its
ambit," NCPCR chief Shanta Sinha told IANS in an interview.
The problem of child labour poses a serious challenge to the
government. Despite several initiatives, the magnitude of the
socio-economic problem has come in the way of its eradication.
Many poor children in India work at the cost of their education,
spending their lives in poverty and dejection. But according to
NCPCR, most cases go unreported.
Sinha says child labour in any form has to be totally banned as it
contradicts the spirit of the Right to Education Act.
"Under the Right to Education Act, no child can be employed
anywhere - neither at home, nor at any factory or brick kiln.
There has to be a total ban on child labour," says the Magsaysay
award winning activist.
As per 2001 Census figures, there are an estimated 13 million
child labourers in the age-group of 5-14 years.
Employers favour child labourers as they come cheap and can be
easily coerced to work extra hours. They are in huge demand,
specially in the diamond industry, fireworks industry and the
domestic sector which includes household units, restaurants,
dhabas and brick kilns.
Though the central government has broadened the coverage of child
labour laws by banning children's services as domestic workers and
as workers in restaurants, dhabas, hotels, yet a lot of children
across the country continue to work in such units.
The household units employ a large number of children, but have
been exempted from the purview of the law.
When asked about the condition of bonded child labourers, Sinha
said: "I don't have the statistics. Every child who is working is
a bonded labourer."
According to Unicef, "close to half the children leave school
before reaching Grade 8 with higher dropout rates for SC
(Scheduled Caste) children (55 out of 100) and the highest for ST
(Scheduled Tribe) children (63 out of 100)".
It also states that children who are out of school are either part
of the labour pool or at the risk of child labour, along with
trafficking, early marriage and other violations.
Just like the plan for eradication of child labour, the issue of
abolition of child marriage by 2010 under the National Plan of
Action for Children 2005 has also gone for a toss due to lack of
Sinha pointed out that lack of schools was the main reason for the
failure to abolish child marriage.
On the status of implementing the Right to Education Act, Sinha
said: "The biggest challenge is to get dropouts back to school and
give them an age appropriate education which has been mandated by
The clause of no-detention policy till Class 8 in the act has
triggered confusion with states like West Bengal arguing it will
impede proper evaluation of students.
But Sinha said: "It actually puts the onus on the schools to see
that there is quality education in schools and they move from one
class to another fully equipped with learning."
She said the policy has been misunderstood by people involved with
the education sector. "It doesn't mean no assessment of the
students. It means comprehensive and continuous education," she
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