Earlier this month, “Save The Children”, a renowned non-profit organization in the sphere of children’s rights released the Global Childhood report. The End of Childhood index released as part of the report shows India at 113th position out of 176 countries – the index is an indicator of well being of children. The index evaluates countries on eight indicators to determine the well-being of children and teenagers (0-19 years). From 2000 – 2019, India’s index score has improved from 632 to 769 (out of 1000). Yet the fact that neighboring nations Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh are placed ahead of India indicates the long way to go yet to ensure well being of our children.
One of the biggest concerns for the country is the dismal state of child labor in India. The Census of 2011 reveals that around 259.6 million children in India are employed as laborers. Of these, 10.1 million are working as either ‘main laborer’ or as ‘marginal worker’. The big states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh together account for 55% of the above numbers.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), total of 251 cases of child labor were reported under the Child Labor Prohibition & Regulation Act (CLPRA), in 2015. 2016 saw the central government make a significant amendment in the CLPRA making child labor a cognizable offence. Unfortunately, the NCRB has not released any statistics on crime in the country post 2016 thus negating the opportunity of making an estimate of the impact of the above change. Still, an independent research carried out by the Kailash Satyarthi Child Foundation (KSCF) in 14 states shows 1121 cases of child labor reported in 2017 – a significant jump from pre-2016 levels. The figure is accumulated basis RTI queries and police FIR reports. However, less than half of these cases (514 out of 1121) were charge-sheeted.
State-wise data also shows that Rajasthan (47 per cent) and Bihar (37 per cent) together contributed 84 per cent of the total cases registered under CLPRA in India during 2017. Interestingly, no case of child labor was registered in states of Haryana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand in 2017. BBA’s (Bachpan Bachao Andolan) an ongoing campaign program of KSCF data shows a wide gap in reporting of child labor cases and the prevalence of the crime. Obtained data clearly demonstrates that in merely 0.01 per cent (1,318 out of 1,01,28,663) cases of child labor are being reported in India. Further analysis of the NCRB reports suggests that except Delhi and Maharashtra, other 12 states where KSCF researched, showed similar trends during 2014-16, with almost no cases of child labor being filed under CLPRA. In Maharashtra and Delhi, the reporting of child labor cases was relatively higher than other states during the same period.
Another significant initiative taken by the previous government was introduction of child-friendly police stations and child-friendly courts 2016 onwards – as of 2018, the KSCF survey reports 728 child friendly police stations and 71 children friendly courts had been established in the 14 surveyed states. However, as of now, only heinous crimes against children punishable under POCSO act are being tried in these courts – child labor cases are at present out of their purview. Bringing child labor cases under the jurisdiction of the child-friendly courts would be a major step in the right direction.
The National Child Labor Project Scheme (NCLP) data shows that on an average 79,918 children were rescued/withdrawn from work from 2013-14 to 2015-16 across all states. However, while the rescue efforts by NCLP are commendable, the rehabilitation of rescued child labor remains a problem area. Experts estimate an annual budget requirement of Rs 160 crores for effective rehabilitation of rescued children. The union budget of 2018-19 though only earmarked Rs 120 crores on this head. Alarmingly, it is observed that the budget allocated for the rehab of rescued children has fallen by 31% in the past 5 years. It will be critical to observe the upcoming budget on this matter.
India today accounts for an estimated 7% of the global child labor force. Significant steps have been taken by the Ministry of Labor & Employment in the last 3-4 years. However, as the stats suggest there is still a fair way to go. One of the earliest steps necessary is for NCRB to release crime stats that would reveal the real gap between estimates of child labor and levels of cases getting registered and acted upon.
Children are the key to the nation’s future. It is imperative for all concerned and that includes us the common citizens to do every bit to help the authorities eradicate child labor from our country.