(HYPOCRISY OF THE CHILD LABOUR ACT)
1.2 million Children under 5 years die from malnutrition every year in India. Malnutrition affects nearly 50% of children under 5.
112 humanitarian experts and journalist have placed India in Alert net poll organized by Reuters Foundation as the 6th most dangerous place for children to live. The countries which are more dangerous than India are Darfur (Sudan), Northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq & Somalia. Children living in our country are worse off than Afghanistan, Palestinian Territories, Myanmar and Chechnya. Apart from the obvious bias ("It requires a huge leap of imagination to suggest that children are more at risk in India than in countries where they are caught up in armed conflicts and civil-war like conditions") revealed in this poll there is no denying the fact that indeed around 1.2 million children under 5, if not more, die from malnutrition every year. Malnutrition is more prevalent among children in India then in Sub-Saharan Africa, World's poorest region.
No current figures are available for the number of children engaged in child labour, since the Indian government does not update such data. According to the 2001 census, there are over 126.6 million child workers in India.
Child labour laws define child as one aged 14years and less. The IPC says anybody up to the age of 16 is a child. The Ministry of Women and Child Development terms a child as one aged 18 years and less.
The Centre on 1st August banned the employment of children aged below 14 years as domestic helps or in the hospitality industry. A few years ago Child labour was banned in the homes of government servants. No government servant has so far been booked though one can easily notice children working in government colonies. This is indicative of how even the present law will be implemented. Child Labour Act stipulates punishment in jail between three months and one year and fine of up to Rs. 20,000/-
Unless alternative modes of engagement in schools and vocational training in schools/colleges are found girl children may be pushed into flesh trade to earn a living. (Juvenile crime would increase because the children and their parents are dependent on their income for ekeing out their existence even Below Poverty Line(better called Destitution Line).
Government spends around Rs. 3,000/- for every child attending primary school. Therefore, the Government will need to budget annually Rs. 36,000/- crore for engaging these children in school/vocational training or otherwise.
If the government does not intend to push the parents and the children below starvation level from Destitution level, government has to allocate for meal allowances for the child (at least Rs. 150 per child per month) and family allowances for their parents (atleast Rs 250 per child per month). The government, therefore, has to budget another Rs. 400 per child that is around Rs. 5000 per annum. So total amount required for this purpose will be Rs. 600,000/- million annually. A total of Rs. 960,000 million will therefore be required if the govt. means to abolish child labour not by slogan (Act.) mongering.
In our book The Great Indian Dream we have calculated in detail that the Govt. needs around Rs. 1,000,000 million annually to create employment for 150 million in rural area and Rs. 1,200,000 million to create 25 million urban employment. We have also worked out in detail how the resources for this purpose can be mobilized. Even if such massive programmes are undertaken, near full employment will exist after a decade. Let us suggest that that government concentrates on creation of employment during the next ten years. This will automatically lead to abolition of child labour since the parents will no longer be forced to send the children to work and earn their living.
Our first Prime Minister was often seen with a red rose in his pocket surrounded by healthy children of the aristocratic families of the then 'Delhi'. The children of those days are now the rulers of the country. They have declared his birthday as the 'Children's Day' in India. Let us not insult him by passing a Child Labour Act without meaning to implement it by not providing adequate budgetary support needed for the same. On the 10th October 2006, the day the Child Labour Act comes into force let us honestly declare that the implementation of the Act is postponed by another decade and from 2016 we shall seriously implement the same, when we have near full employment in the country.
Anything else will sound hollow and will be insulting to the memory of our first Prime Minister.