Prevention of Child Labor

Prevention of Child Labor


This Blog is written by Anwesha Kundu from Amity University, Kolkata. Edited by Karan Dutt.



Not all work done by children should be classified as child labor that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

The term “child labor” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that:
• is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or

• interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.


Innocent children are employed by industries and individuals who put them to work under grueling circumstances. They are made to work for long hours in dangerous factory units and sometimes made to carry load even heavier than their own body weight. Then there are individual households that hire children as domestic help and beat and physically torture them when they make a mistake. The children are at times made to starve and are given worn out clothes to wear. Such is the story of millions of children in India painful and yet true. In this context, there is a need to study the protection and provisions made by the Indian constitution itself for child labor. Present study is an attempt to review Indian Constitution in view point of child labour protection.


Poverty is the most often cited reason why children work. Pressured to provide food and shelter, as well as to pay off debt owed by the parents, some children have no other choice but to become involved in labor in order to support their families. However, some children are sold against their will and forced into slavery. Other factors that influence whether children work or not include barriers to education and inadequate enforcement of legislation protecting children. Child labor is a complex issue, as are the solutions, but the following steps must continue to be pushed for in order to see further progress. First and foremost, child labor laws must be enforced. Another strategy would be to reduce poverty in these areas so as to limit the need for children to be forced into these situations. Finally, providing access to quality education ensures that each child has a chance for a better future.

In some cases children are enslaved laborers, engaged in the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors, or in domestic service, subsequently pushed into homelessness and living on the streets. However, others are trafficked and enslaved in prostitution, or forced into armed combat as child soldiers. These are all forms of child labor the latter qualifying as some of the worst forms of child labor given that such bondage is especially harmful and in direct violation of a child’s human rights. Child labor is a continuing global phenomenon and following are some shocking, but important, facts regarding the practice.


We know that child labour involves exploitation of children, but it is vital to understand how it is not only child victims but how society suffers when it is implemented. This damage isn’t one which can be sidelined and overlooked by those who are only concerned with their own selfish interests – it affects every single individual, immediately as well as the long term.

Here’s why we need to put an end to this evil practice.

We know that child labour involves exploitation of children, but it is vital to understand how it is not only child victims but how society suffers when it is implemented. This damage isn’t one which can be sidelined and overlooked by those who are only concerned with their own selfish interests – it affects every single individual, immediately as well as the long term.

Here’s why we need to put an end to this evil practice.

1. Health damage

Victims of child labour usually suffer from depression and anxiety, pushing them to destructive habits like smoking, alcoholism or drug abuse.

Formative environments of abuse also trigger a lifetime of low self-esteem, depression, and relationship difficulties. Psychological and emotional conditions such as panic disorder, dissociative disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, anger, posttraumatic stress disorder, and reactive attachment disorder have also been noted in children who have grown up in abusive conditions.

2. Employment

At the moment, India has 60 million
Imagine the losses India’s economy faces when successive generations of children attempt to attend the formal workforce. Across industries, this means that the potential talent of children who have been deprived of primary and secondary education will be lost. Instead, they will only be capable of manual and menial labour, in skills like serving tea, cleaning tables and working with hazardous chemicals. Despite aggressive attempts to end child labour, India has still not been able to achieve a blanket ban on the practice.

3. Acceptance of child labour

Today, child labour exists in many invisible forms. You probably ignore everyday incidents of child labour around you, such as the children working as hawkers, or minors used as servants for work like cooking, cleaning utensils and sweeping floors. Even our festive fireworks are made using child labour.

Silently ignoring child labour is just giving approval to this crime, making it acceptable to treat children as utilities and ‘beasts of burden’. In the long run, you are engineering an economy to rely on the dispensability of desperate children, not the energy of eager and productive men and women. That is dangerous for a country’s GDP, and also unacceptable internationally considering the aggressive initiatives the United Nations has taken to end child labour in all forms.


Several articles of Indian Constitution provide protection and provisions for child labour.

Article 15 (3) The State is empowered to make the special provisions relating to child, which will not be violative of right to equality.

Article 21 No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law. The Supreme Court held that „life‟ includes free from exploitation and to live a dignified life.

Article 21A (Right to Education) The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years, in such manner as the State may, by law, determine. Where children are allowed to work, in such establishment, it is the duty of employer to make provisions for the education of child labourer.

Article 23 Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this prohibition shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

Article 24 (Prohibition of Employment of Children in Factories, etc.) No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

The Supreme Court held that “hazardous employment” includes construction work, match boxes and fireworks therefore; no child below the age of 14 years can be employed. Positive steps should be taken for the welfare of such children as well as for improving the quality of their life. Article 39 (e) The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing the health and strength of the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

Article 39 (f) The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity; and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

Article 45 The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.

Article 51A (e) It shall be the duty of every citizen of India, who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward as the case may be, between the age of six and fourteen years.


The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in 16 occupations and 65 processes that are hazardous to the children’s lives and health. These occupations and processes are listed in the Schedule to the Act. In October 2006, the Government has included children working in the domestic sector as well as roadside eateries and motels under the prohibited list of hazardous occupations. More recently, in September 2008 diving as well as process involving excessive heat (e.g. working near a furnace) and cold; mechanical fishing; food processing; beverage industry; timber handling and loading; mechanical lumbering; warehousing; and processes involving exposure to free silica such as slate, pencil industry, stone grinding, slate stone mining, stone quarries as well as the agate industry were added to the list of prohibited occupations and processes.

The Factories Act, 1948 The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years. An adolescent aged between 15 and 18 years can be employed in a factory only if he obtains a certificate of fitness from an authorized medical doctor. The Act also prescribes four and a half hours of work per day for children aged between 14 and 18 years and prohibits their working during night hours.

The Mines Act, 1952 The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine. Further, it states that apprentices above 16 may be allowed to work under proper supervision in a mine. Constitutional Provisions and Legislations for Child Labour in India 137 The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000 This Act was last amended in 2002 in conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child covers young person below 18 years of age. Section 26 of this Act deals with the Exploitation of a Juvenile or Child Employee, and provides in relevant part, that whoever procures a juvenile or the child for the purpose of any hazardous employment and keeps him in bondage and withholds his earnings or uses such earning for his own purposes shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable for fine. In some States, including Karnataka and Maharashtra, this provision has been used effectively to bring to book many child labour employers who are otherwise not covered by any other law and to give relief and rehabilitation benefits to a large number of children.

The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 Prescribes minimum wages for all employees in all establishments or to those working at home in certain sectors specified in the schedule of the Act. Central and State Governments can revise minimum wages specified in the schedule. Some consider this Act as an effective instrument to combat child labour in that it is being used in some States (such as Andhra Pradesh) as the basis on which to prosecute employers who are employing children and paying them with lower wages.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 Provides for free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also envisages that 25 per cent of seats in every private school should be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups including differently abled children.


• At the international level the ILO sets the pace and standards for the welfare and safety of the working class. It may be remembered here that one of the objectives of the ILO itself is the abolition of child labour. Child labour has been a major preoccupation of ILO since its foundation in 1919.

• The linkage of child rights with human rights is an obvious one and has been emphasized by world leaders. The world summit for children was held at the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 301h of 1990 (UNICEF, 1990). The success of World Summit or1 Children of 1990 and the political commitment expressed by Commonwealth Heads of Government and regional organisations like OAU and S.4ARC have opened a new chapter with regard to cooperation in realising child rights.

• With the support and assistance of ILO in 1993, India has launched an extensive action-oriented programme of reduction and elimination of working children and their rehabilitation in thirty centers of the country. The programme is implemented under the auspices of International Programmed on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), an agency of ILO.

• The UNlCEF is also renders fruitful service for the cause of child welfare, rehabilitation of child labour, prohibition of child labour, popularisation of universal education protection of girl children etc. (Ramnarayana, 1992). UNICEF acknowledges the need to seriously address child labour as a key component of the organisation policy.


Unni Krishnan Vs Andhra Pradesh (1993 1. SCC 645) The Supreme Court in its judgment held that children up to the age of 14 had a fundamental right to free education.

Neeraja Chaudhary Vs State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1984 SCC (3) 243) In this case the Supreme Court of India stated that the Child Labourers should be rescued and provision for their rehabilitation should be made.

Constitutional Provisions and Legislations for Child Labour in India

U.P. Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India (AIR 1984 SC 802) In this case the Supreme Court of India stated that if no steps are taken under Bonded Labour System Act – 1976 by the Government then it would be a violation of Article 23 of the Constitution. Article 23 states that children should not be forced to work at cheap wages due to their economical or social disadvantage.

Sheela Barse Vs Secretary, Chrildren Aid Soceity and Others, 1987 The Supreme Court held, “If there be no proper growth of children of today, the future of the country will be dark. It is the obligation of every generation to bring up children who will be citizens of tomorrow in a proper way.

C. Metha Vs State of Tamil Nadu, 1991 The Supreme Court has not allowed children to work in a prohibited occupation. According to the judges, “the provisions of Article 45 in the Directive Principles of State Policy has still remained a far cry and according to this provision all children up to the age of 14 years are sponsored to be in school, economic necessity forces grown up children to seek employment.


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