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Child labour in India

Young boy stacking plates in Bangalore

Of 12.6 million children in hazardous occupations, India has the highest number of labourers in the
world under 14 years of age.[1] Although the Constitution of India guarantees free and compulsory
education to children between the age of 6 to 14 and prohibits employment of children younger than
14 in any hazardous environment, child labour is present in almost all sectors of the Indian
economy[2] Companies including Gap,[3] Primark,[4] Monsanto[5] etc have been criticised for using child
labour in either their operations in India or by their suppliers in India.


• 1 Sectors involved in child labour

o 1.1 Beedi manufacture

o 1.2 Diamond industry

o 1.3 Fireworks manufacture

o 1.4 Silk manufacture

o 1.5 Domestic labour

o 1.6 Construction

o 1.7 Brick kilns

• 2 Initiatives against child labour

o 2.1 Legislation

o 2.2 Non Governmental Organizations

• 3 References

Sectors involved in child labour

Beedi manufacture
A survey conducted between 1994 and 1995 revealed that child workers comprise of more than 30%
of total hired workers in the beedi manufacture sector .[6] The United States Customs
Servicesubsequently banned the import of Beedis made in Ganesh Beedi Works of Mangalore [7]

Diamond industry
Further information: Child labour in the diamond industry#India

In 1997, the International Labour Organization published a report titled Child Labour in the Diamond
Industry,[8] claiming that child labour is highly prevalent in the Indian diamond industry, as child
labourers constitute nearly 3% of the total workforce and the percentage of child labourers is as high
as 25% in the diamond industry of Surat. The ICFTU further claimed that child labour was prospering
in the diamond industry in Western India, where the majority of the world's diamonds are cut and
polished while workers are often paid only a fraction of 1% of the value of the stones they cut.[9] Pravin
Nanavati, a Surat-based diamond businessman argued that, since high cost diamonds could easily be
lost or broken while cutting or polishing, employing a child labourer would mean risking
"lakhs of rupees" and “Around 8-10 years back, some western countries deliberately created the
impression that child labour is prevalent in the Indian diamond industry" and called
the boycott for monopolising in the sector. The South Gujarat Diamond Workers Association secretary
Mohan Dhabuwala, argued that while child labour is highly prevalent in the construction and hotel
industries, there are few child labourers in the diamond industry of Surat, less than 1% according to
their surveys, mainly because of stern punishments and penalties for violation of child labour laws.[10]

In 1998, Madhura Swaminathan from the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research argued
thateconomic growth in Western India was associated with an increase in the number of child workers
over the last 15 years and that children work at simple repetitive manual tasks that do not require long
years of training or experience in low-paying hazardous works that involves drudgery and forecloses
the option of school education for most children.[11]

In 2005, an India-based management consultancy firm named A. F. Ferguson & Co., commissioned a
study titled Child Labour from Gem and Jewellery Industry "to spread awareness about child labor
among the people connected with the industry" that is conducted at 663 manufacturing units at 21
different locations at Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, as a GJEPC
initiative. On February 12, the study is presented in a seminar held by the Gem & Jewelry Export
Promotion Council (GJEPC) and the Surat Diamond Association, in Surat, India. The report argued
that the use of child labour in India’s diamond processing industry has been reduced from 0.55% 143
in1998 to 0.31% in 2005 which is estimated to be less than 1%, "while for the synthetic stone industry
it is estimated to be two-thirds less". Gem& Jewellery Export Promotion Council chairman Bakul
Mehta, claimed that, "Some 500 diamond factory owners took an oath in the city of Palanpur, Gujarat,
(home town of leading Gujarati diamond merchants) not to employ children in their factories. Similarly,
in Surat, 200 factory owners took the oath," and at GJEPC they, "Remain committed to eradicating
child labor from the Indian diamond industry” arguing "...the gem and jewelry industry cannot even
think of employing children, not only for moral reasons, but that a child could be injured while polishing
or cutting the diamonds." [12][13][14]

Fireworks manufacture
Fireworks manufacturers had long been criticised for their use of child labour. Although the
manufacturers declare that child labour is no longer used, estimates suggest that at least 3,000
children still work at every stage of the manufacturing process. Child labourers at Sivakashi earn
wages as low as Rs 20 per day. There had been protests by the manufacturers against the anti child
labour campaign by various N.G.O.s , terming them as false allegations and conspiracies.Thousands
of children die each year in the fireworks business.

Silk manufacture
Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 350,000 bonded children are employed by the silk
industry in India.[15] As per Human Rights Watch, children as young as five years old are employed and
work for up to 12 hours a day and six to seven days a week.[16] Children are forced to dip their hands in
scalding water to palpate the cocoons and are often paid less than Rs 10 per day.[17]

Domestic labour
Official estimates for child labor working as domestic labor and in restaurants is more than 2,500,000
while NGOs estimate the figure to be around 20 million.[18] The Government of India expanded the
coverage of The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act and banned the employment of children
as domestic workers and as workers in restaurants, dhabas, hotels, spas and resorts effective from
October 10, 2006.[19]

The misuse of adult labor can be found in the construction industry too. adults are found in
construction of both home and office buildings. In 2011, for the construction of the Asian Games care
house, the contractors had employed adults, for they had to be paid more, making it a small issue.

Brick kilns
Each year, thousands of children are rescued from brick kilns, working in awful conditions. Some of the
children are actually sold to the brick kiln owners, and are not paid.

Initiatives against child labour

In 1979, the Indian government formed the Gurupadswamy Committee to find about child labour and
means to tackle it. The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act was enacted based on the
recommendations of the committee in 1986. A National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987
to focus on rehabilitating children working in hazardous occupations.[20] The ministry of Labour and
Employment had implemented around 100 industry-specific National Child Labour Projects to
rehabilitate the child workers since 1988.[21]

The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (1986) bans employment of children in occupations
related to

 Transport of passengers

 Manufacture and selling of crackers and fireworks

 Abattoirs

 Carpet weaving

 Manufacture of Beedi,cement, matches, explosives, soap, slate

pencils, agate products, agarbattietc

 Building and construction industry

 Hazardous processes under the factory act

 Brick kilns etc

The violation of the act can result in punishments ranging from imprisonment for one month to two

Non Governmental Organizations

Many NGOs like CARE India, Child Relief and You, Global march against child labor etc have been
working to eradicate child labour in India.[23] In 2005, Pratham, an Indian NGO was involved in one of
the biggest rescue operations when around 500 child laborers were rescued from zari sweatshops
inNorth East Delhi [24]