Child Labour in India: a Critical Legal Study

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Child labour has been prevalent in our society and across the world since ages and is a growing concern for the development around the globe. Much is taken away in the name of labour: childhood. Child labour is the denial of their childhood, their freedom and their future and their being as human being. Childhood is the foundation of a human being and hence is the foundation of future. No wonder why it should be eliminated from the roots of the society of any country.

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But still it has its root since ages and couldn’t have been eradicated and is prevalent especially in the developing country.

Child labour has been a longstanding practice in India, particularly in provincial territories where all individuals from a family traditionally worked since their early age. Other factors like poverty, over-population, unemployment, social backwardness, illiteracy, lack of education facilities and poor compliance of law has been fuelling this evil in the Indian society. Notwithstanding a few enactment and legal decisions the children works proceeds without restriction in India. This in result has intruded with the privileges of the children specifically ideal to training; physical wellbeing; mental good and social advancement. This in an ultimate has brought about the obstacle in the improvement of the country. There is a need therefore to determine the reasons for child labour so as to prepare towards the absolute disallowance of the equivalent from the nation.

A Brief

Child labour has been prevalent in our society and across the world since ages and is a growing concern for the development around the globe. Much is taken away in the name of labour: childhood. Childhood is the foundation of a human being and hence is the foundation of future. Childhood is the time where the best possible development and advancement of the kids in all viewpoints like rationally, physically, socially and mentally is possible by learning from their parents and environment .These children are not even able to attain that certain age where one can think of their education and they are burdened with the mundaneness of the hunger prevailing due to poverty or other reasons which has dragged them to the class of labour. In the long run child labour does not only affect the social growth but also hampers the economic development of the country. This has been a major issue especially in the developing nations and one among them is India. It is saddening that even after 72 years of independence the country census shows more than 10.2 million “economically active” children in the age group of five to fourteen years – (5.6 million boys and 4.5 million girls).

“In the recent decades India has come up with the range of laws and programmes to defeat the issue of child labour. The Indian government along with the UNICEF is working to ensure that the children are protected from the work and exploitation which is harmful to their development.”1 But it is not quite simple as India’s legal framework is drastically overpowered and seriously accumulated, and the cases of child labour can undoubtedly get lost in an outright flood.

What Is Child Labour?

Child labour is any work done by children that is dangerous, hampers their education and is harmful to their health and development. “The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, defines a child as any person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age. Part II of the act prohibits children from working in any occupation listed in Part A of the Schedule; for example: Catering at railway establishments, construction work on the railway or anywhere nears the tracks, plastics factories, automobile garages, etc. The act also prohibits children from working in places where certain processes are being undertaken, as listed in Part B of the Schedule; for example: beedi making, tanning, soap manufacture, brick kilns and roof tiles units, etc. These provisions do not apply to a workshop where the occupier is working with the help of his family or in a government recognised or aided school.”

Factors Leading To Child Labour In India

Child labour has been a longstanding practice in India, particularly in provincial territories where all individuals from a family traditionally worked since their early age. Most of the children who are working today in child labour belong to the low caste in the Indian caste driven society. So the social-cultural factor is a major factor. Most of them belong to the traditional backward class and tribes and minority communities. Another imperative social factor that causes kid work in India is the profoundly instilled social qualities that have existed for quite a long time. Regularly young ladies are let alone for measurements in regards to child labour in light of the fact that occasionally they don’t work in the formal areas of child labour, for example, industrial facilities; rather they partake in domestic sector.

Illiteracy has its paw on the prevailing system in India. The parents being illiterate deny the importance of education in the life of children. They pressurise them to rather hold a sickle instead of a pencil as they themselves have been fed by the earnings of the former. And if the government policies manage to reach a few of them then also the lack of thorough education system is pushing children out of the classrooms and into the cotton fields or agricultural sector or industries as they trust that work is a superior alternative to sustain their future.

The relationship between status as a developing nation and rates of child labour is no coincidence. There are numerous explanations behind this; we’ll begin with some monetary components. The change into a mechanical economy concentrated on worldwide markets isn’t actually a simple one, and the outcome in numerous countries has been far reaching destitution and joblessness. In countries where monetary open doors are low, numerous families have come to depend on the pay earned by their children. For these families, sending markets. The legislatures of creating countries don’t generally have settled jobs in the universal economy, which implies they don’t have a ton of additional cash. Most creating countries can just industrialize and modernize with the assistance of broad credits from outside governments or private enterprises. This implies even after the country has developed their new economy, they are profoundly in the red. As opposed to placing cash into their own economy to invigorate occupations or into social welfare projects to battle the neediness that promotes children’s work, all the country’s assets need to go toward satisfying their obligation.

While talking of many causes which are leading to the firmness of child labour in the society we cannot ignore the prevailing poverty in India. Poverty is the supreme cause of all. A country where there are issues like unemployment and over population, poverty will give birth to these inhuman issues. But it is also an eternal truth that it is not poverty which is barring children from school, our society is poor because our children are not going to school.

Critical Anylysis On Laws In India On Child Labour

In 1989, the United Nations adopted the convention on the rights of the child. This is an international agreement, recognizing the special rights of all children to be treated fairly, equally and with dignity. It recognizes that all actions concerning the children should be in the best interest of the child. It should promote their development and should give them the right to say about the matters affecting them. It gives all the children the right to food, clean water, shelter, and health care. It gives the children right to feel safe and secure as children are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect. It provides right to development for all children in terms of their education, time to play and to grow and develop in all aspects of community life. All children have the right to participate in all the decisions that affect them. This helps to protect them from abuse and exploitation. Child labour infringes on all of these rights.

“India did sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. However, the Indian government has not signed off on Convention 138 on Minimum Age and Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour which to the ILO is considered very progressive in regard to the law against child labour. The Indian government maintains due to their decentralized style of government, only the individual states in India have the constitutional power to change the law regarding the minimum age.” Authoritatively, each territory of India (India has 29 states) is in charge of authorizing child labour inside its very own borders, yet many face issues of subsidizing and organization. As a result, millions of Indian children are working illegally.

In July 2016, our government passed an amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition And Regulation) Act of 1986. The amendment proposed three major changes:

  1. Amendment of section 2. The “definition of the child” has been changed from below the age of 18 to below the age of 14 years. Changing the age limit and reducing it to 14 years clearly is a sign that one only wants to avoid all kinds of accountabilities. Are we just accepting that this is the way children above 14 are going to be? And is this the story that we have made for them?
  2. A child below 14 will not be allowed to work in any industry except when it is a family enterprise. In family enterprises, they have written ‘any businesses. Any business could mean anything. So for instance if some family is running a liquor business in their home then this becomes a family enterprise. So will we allow children to work in that?
  3. The list of industries that are considered harmful for an individual aged 14 to 18 have been brought down from 83 to 3. The numbers of hazardous industries have reduced which is a huge problem. As we look to the history, in the act of 1986, each time a new industries were added it was done with a lot of rationale. And now the numbers are only limited to a few hazardous industries like mining and few others. In our entire country, if we see most of the working children are working in the agricultural sector.
  4. Amendment of section 14. There is no rigorous punishment for the employer to stop the employment at the first place only. This section also states that there is no punishment for the parents for employing their children unless it is for the commercial purpose. So is there enough fear in the eyes of the employer before they put hands on the children?

The government passes every amendment from its side. But they might not be rid of the loopholes. Child Labour Act has been present for so many years. Even then in today’s time child labour exists in every corner in India. One of the reasons being we could go fight saying the law gave us claws basically, to fight. And now those are gone. Secondly, passing an amendment and its implementation, that is two different things. The effects of the amendment should reach the children. The benefit should reach the chchildren.

The authoritative body should make strict rules regarding checking and establish a surveillance cell for implementation of the existing policies. There is a need of advancement in the education system of the country. And as a responsible citizen we should ourselves ask a question that when was the last time we took a step to stop child labour? Because ultimately they alone are not the sufferers, the whole nation is. So we should all step together to say no to child labour.

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Child Labour In India: A Critical Legal Study. (2019, Nov 19). Retrieved from