Daily Archives: July 29, 2015

5 Myths on Child Labour in India

5 Myths on Child Labour in India| Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization

Child labour might still be a necessary evil in a country like India but the new law proposed by the government will worsen the condition of child workers in the country. The burden of the government’s lofty ‘Make in India’ dream cannot be allowed to rest on our children.

5 Myths on Child Labour in India| Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization

While poverty remains the main reason why child labour is prevalent it certainly doesn’t mean that children who work can help their families to break out of poverty. It is like a vicious circle. When children are either not sent to school in the first place or are forced to drop out and start working as cheaper labour they miss out on acquiring formal education and skills which are crucial to getting a decent job and a significant improvement in their standard of living. So, in fact child labour helps in perpetuating the cycle of poverty instead of breaking it.

5 Myths on Child Labour in India| Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization

Many well-meaning people in our society feel they are in fact doing a favour to Child Domestic Workers by employing them. This is at best a self-serving delusion. While many of us may treat them humanely, we still make them work for us and our children. Yes, in most cases these children come from poor families, often from remote villages where they live a life of abject deprivation. But, our goal should be strengthen the hands of those work for creating the required social and economic infrastructure in such so that these children don’t have to work in our homes and miss out on their childhoods and a chance at a better life.

In most cases, these children who are sent to our homes by dubious placement agencies are exploited, abused and cheated. The money promised to them doesn’t reach their families. Unwittingly, we have become part of the systematic exploitation of such children as their employers.

5 Myths on Child Labour in India| Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization

It is a common myth that to save ancient craft children need to start working in hereditary occupations like carpet-weaving, glass-blowing etc… In any case should the cost of ‘saving’ such ancient crafts be millions of lost childhoods? Should the burden of this ‘saving’ befall the tiny and still unformed minds and bodies of little children? It is nothing but a cruel ruse by the industry lobbies of such sectors to continue to get government benefits by retaining the status of cottage and hand-loom industries.

Many of us come from impoverished backgrounds, some of us might even have ancestors who were petty artisans, or even labourers, but education and economic opportunities enabled us to rise and live a dignified life. If there is a skill that really needs to be preserved it can be done so through government-aided training programmes. Children, if they want to learn a family skill should be allowed to do so but not at the cost of their future and childhood.

5 Myths on Child Labour in India| Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization

Is it possible to track what goes in people’s homes? The notion that children can ‘help’ their family-run businesses after school hours seems benign but is loaded with risks for millions of child labourers who will now have no recourse to legal remedies to get out of forced child labour. How will the government track if the child is really working in her own family-enterprise given the poor state of monitoring agencies? Besides in the Indian context the definition of who is family is also ambiguous.

Most children below the age of 14 years already work in family enterprises, agriculture, artisanship, entertainment industry (except circus), this amendment will pull even more children into unregulated child labour settings.

The truth behind family businesses is that these are most often unorganised cheaply outsourced paid per piece production jobs, where children are pressurised to work for hours together for very meagre income leaving them with no time to study, or for recreation.

5 Myths on Child Labour in India| Leher NGO in India | Child Rights Organization

It’s like the same argument proposed by supporters of show-fighting. The one who survives is better. Children’s lives are not to be played around with just because they are born in poor families. They deserve education and a healthy childhood as much our children.

In pictures: The reality of children helping in home based work

To be tabled in this season’s parliamentary session, the government proposes an amendment to the child labour legislation. The amendment proposes a ban of all child labour upto 14 years of age, but contains a provisio, which allows children under 14 years to help their parents after school, and during vacations in fields, home based work or forest gathering.

The government envisages that this provisio will help impoverished families earn a living and give children an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. India has 10 million children who work. We have no system or services in place to monitor, rehabilitate or even to obtain justice for children who have been exploited at their work places. Such an amendment will allow for millions of children to fall into the ambit of work. In the Indian context where definitions of family are ambiguous (everyone is an uncle and nephew), the provisio in the amendment will deny children who are being forced to work, the right to legal recourse.

“The new economic growth model is pushing more and more work from factory floors to homes. In cramped, poorly lit and barely ventilated slum shanties, children bend over for hours moulding, stitching, embroidering, weaving and folding,”writes human rights activist, Harsh Mander. We would be fooling ourselves if we think that children who work under these conditions would be in a position to attend school, and have time left over for study and recreation.

For those of us who are under the illusion that children helping their parents in home based work is alright, here are some images that capture what it really looks like. Invisible and dangerous.

 

Murram (the tray one makes beedi on) and Suri (the knife that is used for closing the tip of the beedi) instead of toys

 

Photo - AP, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo – AP

Nimble fingers move with robotic precision- placing the tobacco inside the dried leaf, tightly rolling and tying it up with a thread, and closing the tip with a sharp knife. Continuous beedi rolling leads to thinning of skin on the fingers and results in direct absorption of high doses of Nicotine.

 


Soft hands that harden mud clay into the bricks

Photo - Unknown, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo – Unknown

Smoke rising off huge furnaces of brick kilns amidst green fields beside highways. Déjà vu? Yes we’re sure. But, what you have probably failed to notice is the black coal dust smeared faces of children working alongside their parents, carrying and placing the bricks to dry under the sun. Their eyes burn, their lungs fill with coal dust. Would you want them to do this for even a minute?


Ever heard this? “Woh apna chacha se kaam seekhne Mumbai chala gaya?”

Photo- Unknown, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo- Unknown

Eyes strained, staring at the patterns they are sowing, finger tips sore from handling needles, they strain their spines, sitting with their necks bent. These are not factories with protection standards and workers’ rights. Many of these are units operating out of people’s homes in urban shanties.

Bangles or handcuffs?

Photo- Aljazeera, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo- Aljazeera

In the confines of their homes- on the floor, they solder, mould over a flame and finish by dipping in acid. Too soon to be learning a traditional family skill?

Childhoods lost a stick at a time

Photo- Unknown, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo- Unknown

Each match is coated the chemical mixture. Then packed. Hundreds in a day for a meagre some of money. The low price of each piece makes the volume of her work overwhelmingly high. She could be one of the many children we’ve heard of, who get home from school and get to work.

Incense of a childhood lost

Photo- Unknown, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo- Unknown

Exposed to chemicals in incense paste, their eyes and lungs get affected over time.

 

Where are the colours in their lives: The white cotton pickers of India

 

Photo- Unknown, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo- Unknown

Children are involved at every stage – seeding cotton, picking and ginning- the ugly side of a global business chain which provides raw material to high-end garment brands. According to an article in Reuters, India is the largest producer of cotton, an industry which thrives on cheap labour offered by children. As seasonal labour children are taken in droves across states far away from their homes.

Chotu serving you Chai? Everywhere, isn’t he?

Photo- Unknown, In Pictures: The Reality of Children Helping In Home Based Work | Leher NGO In India | Child Rights Organization
Photo- Unknown

Even if you try telling the owner that child labour in dhabhas is banned, he’ll most likely tell you Chotu is his nephew, and that he goes to school and helps in his free time. Chotu’s eyes however, will tell you another story. One that you won’t be able to do much about if the proposed amendments pass.