Child labour issues need humane hand

Human Rights


However, they are most often treated as perpetuators of crimes — and not as individuals whose rights are being violated, not as individuals who are struggling to survive in the midst of increasing pressures and not as individuals who should be respected and assisted to find real alternatives that provide lasting solutions to their problems.

It is clear that the existing top down, piece meal, scheme based, relief oriented strategy has failed to meet its goals. For the child labourers this approach has been crippling rather than enabling; criminalising rather than empowering and marginalising rather than inclusive and participatory.

Karnataka and several other states have repeatedly extended their ‘deadline’ to reach a ‘child labour free status.’ If we proceed with the state’s existing ‘plans of action’ we are certain to find ourselves in a worse situation in the years to come as in addition to the existing challenges, global recession is sharply contributing to increased poverty and vulnerability of those who already lack social security.

There is need for a comprehensive, multi-pronged, bottom-up, decentralised and participatory approach to addressing the problem of child labour. We must adopt a more enabling and empowering strategy that does not treat child workers as the problem, but include them as a part of the solution.

Failure

State strategies to address child labour in India have shamefully failed to meet our constitutional commitments to children who are forced to work for a myriad reasons.

To date, the popular legislative approach towards child labour has been to ban industries and processes for children below the age of 14. This approach is implemented through consequent punitive action against employers and the criminalisation of the children who labour.

The only way the state has seen it fit is to implement this legislation through compulsion.
The experience of the past few decades has shown that in most cases the situation of these children has gone from ‘the frying pan into the fire’.

Fortunately, there are an increasing number of organisations and individuals, including journalists and political analysts, individuals who believe that the ‘best interests of the child’ is being violated by the ban approach and they question the viability of  such strategies and doubt their ability to create a ‘child labour free India’.

These strategies and plans of action needs to be reviewed and a new practical and viable strategy needs to be formulated with great urgency.

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