Monday, November 13, 2006

Child Labor In India

Everywhere in India, it is a fairly common to see children-sometimes very small children-working in a variety of places; road side eateries, tea stalls, dhabas, construction sites, domestic help in cities and towns and as agricultural help among other places in rural areas. Then there are the homeless children everyone sees most commonly in railway stations among other places.

Last month legislation banning employment of children less than 14 years as domestic help and in eateries came into effect. While it is important to provide the problem of child labor with a strong legal basis, I believe this latest ban is futile. In the conditions prevalent in India, simply banning child labor without sorting out many other related issues isn't going to work. The government must ensure that there is a practical alternative for children who are going to be displaced from work because of this ban. There must be free and compulsory schooling, nutritious meals must be provided for them, health care services must be provided, they must be given access to vocational courses, even sporting activities. Simply preventing children from working and then giving them nothing useful to do is retrogressive.

Surely all that involves a huge financial expenditure; but what better investment can we make than in our own children? Finding the money needed for financing these projects won't be a huge challenge for the government. The current issue of Frontline discusses the issue of child labor in India and the legislation in question in great detail.

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