"Child Labour" is defined as work that robs children of their childhood, their dignity, their potential, and which is detrimental to physical and mental development.
It refers to work which is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and hinders with a child's ability to attend and participate in school fully by compelling them to leave school; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
According to 2011 Census, the child population in India between the age group (5-14) years is 259.6 million out of these, 10.1 million (3.9% of total child population) are either working as 'main worker' or as 'marginal worker'. Moreover, around 42.7 million children in India are out of school. Nevertheless, the positive news is that child labour incidents have decreased in India by 2.6 million between the year 2001 and 2011. This decline was more visible in rural areas, while the number of child workers has increased in urban areas, indicating the growing demand for child workers in menial jobs. Child labour has different ramifications in both rural and urban India.
Child labour deters children from gaining the skills and education they need to have opportunities for proper work when adult. Inequality, lack of education, slow demographic shift, traditions and cultural expectations all contribute to the continuity of the child labour in India. The ILO believes that stable economic growth, respect for labour standards, social protection, decent work, universal education, understanding the needs and rights of the children — together with help can tackle the root causes of child labour.
The enforcement of the Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016 and The Right to Education Act 2009 have made way for ratification of ILO's two core conventions
1. Convention No 138 which stipulates that the minimum age at which children can start work shouldn't be below the compulsory schooling age and in any case not less than 15 years; with a possible exception for developing countries.
2. Convention No. 182 prohibits hazardous work which is likely to endanger children's physical and mental health. Its objective is the immediate elimination of the worst forms of child labour for children below 18 years.
India has now ratified six out of eight core ILO conventions, with the ratification of the two core ILO conventions. Four other conventions were related to equal remuneration, the abolition of forced labour, and no discrimination based on gender in employment and occupation.
The Central government through Child labour (Prohibition and Prevention) Amendment Act, 2016 has banned employment of child labour below 14 years age in all occupations and processes. It further prohibits the employment of adolescents (14-18 years of age) in hazardous occupations. However, children are allowed to "help" families in running their domestic enterprises only after school hours.
As a conclusion, children are expected to be enjoying their childhood and should be allowed to educate themselves at early ages. Government has introduced many schemes to reduce child labour, like providing free education and taking severe actions against those who promote child labour. Child labour happens in all walks from within families to factories. Thus, the mindset of the society should be changed to emphasize that children must go to school and adults should be employed. The children should be encouraged to speak up for themselves and say no to child labour. After all, what kind of citizens do we expect them to be after such types of abuse? We need to think about it. Children are the assets of the nation. When they fail, the country fails.