World Day Against Child Labour: Realty+ takes a look at the plight of child labour in the construction industry
According to a recent estimate of the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 120 million children between the ages of 5-14 are employed as full time labourers around the world. A good number of such children labour in the most hazardous and dangerous industries. In India itself, it is estimated that there are at least 44 million child labourers in the age group of 5-14. More than eighty percent of child labourers in India are employed in the agricultural and non-formal sectors and many are bonded labourers. Most of them are either illiterate or dropped out of school after two or three years.
One study indicates that hard physical labour over a period of years stunts a child’s physical stature by up to 30 percent of their biological potential. Working in mines, quarries, construction sites, and carrying heavy loads are some of the activities that put children directly at risk physically. Jobs in the glass and brassware industry in India, where children are exposed to high temperatures while rotating the wheel furnace and use heavy and sharp tools, are clearly physically hazardous to them.
“There is a serious problem of child labour and slavery does exist in the world in its cruellest forms. But abolition of slavery and child labour is possible, it is in our reach, so there is hope,” expresses Kailash Satyarthi, Child Rights Activist.
According to a Government of India source, Gujarat accounts for 4.86 lakh child workers, who will find their way to schools in case the Government of India’s proposal to ban the employment of children under 14 takes into effect. The amendment, which received a Cabinet nod last year, would impose a three-year jail term, and a fine of Rs 50,000, for anyone who employs children under 14, or uses children under 18 in hazardous industries. Child and human rights campaigners, as well as the International Labour Organisation, have already welcomed the move as a landmark in India’s child labour debate, though they admit that enforcement would be a huge challenge.
“People should become the partner to bring a change in the lives of all these children. My faith is in the young people. The youth should take charge. They should not look for leaders and heroes outside. There is a hero inside each of the children who are freed and who are still child labourers,” Satyarthi said.