If you want to see Godliness, watch a child smiling. The innocence of a child reveals the purity of his heart but sadly, this world of cruel human beings and the universal disease called poverty have not left this beautiful and innocent form of life untouched. The existence of child labour is a ground reality, a social crime and a crime against humanity, which steals away the innocence of a child and leaves him as a machine in this cruel world of human beings, the most savage animal of this world. A good proportion of children throughout the world, especially in India, form a part of the toiling masses-destitute, deprived and disadvantaged. It is a matter of shame that maximum number of child labourers is in India. As per the Government data, the number of child labourers in India is approximately two crores. They work in fields and factories, at street corners and in garbage dumps. With low level of education and no sense of social responsibility, these children can do much harm to the society, if they are not given protection and equal opportunities to develop.
The existence of child labour in India is a complex problem. Poverty is the main and parent cause of the existence of child labour in India. Ineffective laws and more often, lack of political will to implement them and social unawareness contribute to the continuation of this problem. Child labourers are preferred by many employers as they are available at cheap rates, and come without much liability. They are easy to be moulded to different circumstances but lack of education, games and fun make them mechanical and hamper their all round development. The Constitution has prohibited the employment of children below the age of 14 in any hazardous industry under Article 24.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 was also a welcome step. Their employment at homes as domestic help and at dhabas has also been banned by an amendment made effective from 10th October, 2006. The amendment included houses, hotels, dhabas restaurants etc in Part A of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, by recognizing the above mentioned places as places of hazardous occupation. But the reality is far away from what was expected. Inspite of various safeguards provided in the different Acts, the existence of child labour is a shocking reality. Hunger and starvation push the poor children to do odd jobs. More often the parents in greed of some extra income push their children to do various odd jobs but there is also another stark reality. Abrupt end to child labour without any solution to the, problem of hunger, starvation and poverty may lead to more grim exploitation. The plight of the poor children would be more severe if they are suddenly deprived of their livelihood. Crime, prostitution and destitution can hardly be a better fate than child labour but at the same time, with this huge population of child labourers, the dream of a developed India seems distant.