At the present stage, child labour has become one of the very serious problems in the civilized society. Presently it is not the concern of the individual nation but it has become a global phenomenon.
The following are the objectives of this study:-
To study the concept and factors leading to child labour and historical background of child labour.
To analyze various international instruments dealing with child labour.
To examine the legislative measures adopted for the eradication of child labour.
To evaluate the role of judiciary to check child labour.
To highlight the prevailing socio-economic conditions of child labourers in the State of Punjab.
To assess the extent of child labour in Punjab.
To give suggestions for combating the problem of child labour in India.
3. RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
For the purpose of present research work the study is centered on the following hypothesis:-
Child labour is in prevalence in India since time immemorial.
Inadequate policies and lack of coordination between various agencies working under Union and State Government in the matter of child labour lead to increase the problem of child labour.
Various international instruments and legislative measures dealing with child labour are not effective to eradicate child labour due to lack of effective implementation policies.
Lack of effective coordination exists among Government and citizens of India to eradicate child labour.
Lack of political will and determination to control the increasing child labour.
Lack of uniform application of enactments by the State Governments increases the incidence of child labour and affects the whole society.
Although, Punjab is an affluent State, yet child labour is quite prevalent in unorganized sectors in Punjab.
No doubt poverty is the root cause of child labour in State of Punjab but parental attitude is one of the main factor responsible for the existence of child labour.
4. RESEARCH METHDOLOGY
The present study is a highly sensitive one and aims at describing the child labour in India with special reference to State of Punjab. Lot of problems appeared while choosing a suitable research methodology to undertaken this study.
The study is theoretical as well as empirical in nature. Efforts has been made to gather first hand information from the agencies working on elimination of child labour. Descriptive and explanatory type of research has been used to understand the problem of child labour, it is descriptive because it helps in understanding the nature of problem of child labour and it is explanatory as it provides reasons behind the child labour. An inter-disciplinary approach to examine the problem of child labour has been adopted. Further, the study covers up the content analysis of publications, law reporters, research articles in both journals as well as in e-journals, legislative assembly debates, reference books, old documents, law commission reports, law reporters etc. The study will be based on primary as well as on secondary information. Different sets of questionnaire and interview methods has been used for different categories of persons to collect data and arriving at appropriate findings and suggestions.
5. SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
The whole research work of the study has been carried out through seven chapters.
Chapter-2: Concept and Historical Background of Child Labour
Chapter-3: International Perspective of Child Labour
Chapter-4: Child Labour Under the Constitution and Various Legislations
Chapter-5: Role of Judiciary in Preventing the Child Labour
Chapter-6: Study of Child Labour in the State of Punjab
Chapter-7: Conclusion and Suggestions
Chapter one deals with preliminary aspects, it explain in detail about the definitions and causes of child labour. It also describes the socio-cultural and economic background of child labour. The age of the child has been defined differently in different laws. No doubt poverty is responsible for child labour but the lack of educational facilities encourage child labour in rural areas. The children of India are affected by the problem of child labour to the large extent. It is the responsibility of the State to eliminate child labour as per the Constitution and various legislations of India. Government of Punjab has taken various steps to fight with this serious problem. Initial chapter also shows that an exhaustive review of existing literature has also been undertaken. Objective of the study has been identified and hypothesis and research methodology has also been explained.
Chapter-2: Concept and Historical Background of Child Labour
It explains the issue of child labour which is directly related to the issues of childhood, the perceptions that the community holds with respect to the children and their role in the family and community life.The precise age of what constitute child labour has not been laid down anywhere because of variations in the age of a child as given under the Constitution of India, legislations and international Conventions: “No child below the age of fourteen years shall be allowed to work in a factory, a mine or in any hazardous employment.” “Provision of free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such a manner as the State may by law determine.” The State shall endeavour to provide, “Within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.” “Duty of every citizen who is parent, guardian to provide opportunities for education to the child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years.” According to the Employment of Children Act, 1938, “Child has been defined as a person below fourteen years of age.” In the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, “Child is to be a person who has not completed his fourteen years of age.” Under the Factories Act, 1948, “A child is defined as a person below fifteen years of age.” As per the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, “A child is held to be a person who has not completed his fourteen years of age.” Under the Mines Act, 1952, “A person below fifteen years of age is prohibited from working in mines.” As per the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961,”Child below the age of fifteen years is prohibited in the employment.” Under the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966,”A child is held to be a person who has not completed his fourteenth year.” According to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, “A child is defined as a person below fourteen years of age.” As per the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, “Child means a male or female child of the age of six to fourteen years.” As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, “Child below the age of fourteen years is prohibited in any type of employment.” The United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child 1989, Article 1, defines, “Child as every human being who is below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” Article 3 of the Maritime Labour Convention (ILO), 2006, defines, “Child as every human being who is below the age of sixteen years.” The Work in Fishing Convention (ILO), 2007, Article 1, defines, “Child as a person below fifteen years of age.”
This chapter also describes the main causes of the problem of child labour. Poverty, illiteracy, unemployed parents etc. are the most important factors contributing to the fast growth of child labour. According to International Labour Organization (2016), the vast majority of child labour is involved in hazardous occupations such as agriculture, construction, bonded child labour, domestic work etc. Researcher has made an attempt to trace the origin and evolution of the problem of child labour in different periods. Child labour in ancient India was existed in the form of child slaves. Child labour in medieval India was quite rampant and rulers encouraged it with an intention to make traffic in child slaves. In India, it is mainly associated with the industrialization, from the British rule. Due to enforcement of statutory provisions, unionization of workers and modernization of machinery, employment of children has gradually declined in the organized sector, but it persists in varying degrees in the unorganized sectors such as agriculture, small plantations, hotels and restaurants, small urban undertakings etc.
Chapter-3: International Perspective of Child Labour
It deals with the various efforts which has been put at international level to curb this problem and are discussed under following headings:-
The Geneva Declaration of the Rights of Child, 1924
In 1924, the League of Nations adopted the “Geneva Declaration.” The first effort to address the rights of the child on an international level was the “Geneva Declaration.” It provides that the child should be given the means which are required for its normal development, both materially and spiritually. The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed and the orphan must be sheltered. He must be protected against every form of exploitation.
The United Nations Instruments
The Instruments for the protection and welfare of the children are as
The UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959: The adoption of this Declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 20, 1959 was indeed a very important event as regards the international recognition of the rights of the child. The need for extending particular care to the child has been stated in this Declaration. The General Assembly affirmed that the child has the right to enjoy special protection and to be given opportunities and facilities to be able to develop in healthy and normal manner.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966: It was Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and entered into force in 1976, it reaffirms the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Right,1948 with regard to civil and political rights and commits State parties to take action to realize these rights. Article 8 states that no one should be kept in slavery or servitude or be required to perform forces or compulsory labour.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966: The present covenant was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and enforced in 1976, it reaffirms the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with regard to economic, social, and cultural rights. Article 10 states that parties should protect young people from economic exploitation and employment in work which is likely to hamper their morals, health or lives and their normal development. It also commit parties to set age limit below which the paid employment of child should be prohibited and punishable by law.
The International Year of Child, 1979: The UN General Assembly decided on 21st December 1976 to observe the year 1979 as the “International Year of Child” with the following objectives:-
For enhancing the awareness of the special need of children on the part of decision makers and the public.
To promote recognition of the fact that programmes for children should be an integral part of economic and social development plans for the benefit of children at the national and international level.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989: This document unambiguously defines a standard childhood and it lays down distinctly the responsibilities of individuals, institutions and States for realization of child rights. ‘Child’ is defined as an individual under the age of eighteen year. Article 32 of the convention on the Rights of the Child obligates the Government to protect children from economic exploitation and from performing any work which is likely to be hazardous.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
International Labour Organization (ILO) is an important specialized agency of the United Nations, which is working for the protection of children from exploitation and for the betterment of the conditions of labour throughout the World. According to the ILO’s latest estimates of 2017, the number of child labourers fell by 16 per cent globally over the past four years and the number of children in hazardous work has decreased by 36 per cent. According to ILO, there are 7.8 million child labourers in India of which 5.4 million are in non hazardous work and 2.4 million are in hazardous work.
The Conventions of International Labour Organization are:-
The Minimum Employment Age (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No.5): The children under the age of fourteen years should not be employed in work in any public or private industrial undertaking, or in any branch thereof. Each member which ratifies this Convention agrees to bring its provisions into operation and to take such action as may be necessary to make this provision effective. Even though India gave effect to this convention by making provisions in the Factories Act, 1922 and the Mines Act, 1923, but the Convention was ratified only in 1955.
The Minimum Age (Trimmers and Stokers) Convention, 1921(No. 15): For the purpose of this Convention, the term “Vessel” includes all ships and boats, of any nature whatsoever, engaged in maritime navigation, whether publicly or privately owned, excludes ships of war. It provided that young persons under the age of eighteen years shall not be employed on vessels as trimmers and stokers. Though India adopted this Convention in 1922, the age limit for India was kept at sixteen years.
The Minimum Age (Industry) Convention, 1937 (No.59): Children under the age of fifteen years shall not be employed or work in any public or private industrial undertaking:-
Mines, quarries and other works for the extraction of minerals from the earth.
Industries in which articles are manufactured, altered, cleaned.
Construction, maintenance, repair of any building, railway, tramway, tunnel etc.
The Minimum Age(Underground Work)Convention, 1965 (No.123): For the Purpose of this Convention, the term ‘mine’ means any undertaking, whether public or private, for the extraction of any substance from under the surface of the earth by means involving the employment of persons underground.Children below the age of sixteen years shall not be employed in mines.
The Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and Work, 1973 (No.138): The objective of the Convention No.138 is the effective abolition of child labour, which puts forth the most comprehensive and authoritative international definition of minimum age for admission to employment and sets the boundaries of the types of work that are unacceptable under international standards. It lays down a basic minimum age which should not be less than the age for completion of compulsory schooling and in any case not less than fifteen years. But it permits the employment of young persons between the age of thirteen and fifteen years on light work in those Countries where economic and educational facilities are insufficiently developed.
The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No.182): This Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of labour was an outcome of the General Conference of the ILO which had been convened at Geneva and was adopted on 17-6-1999. It came into force on 19-11-2000. The basic need for the unanimous adoption of such a concern was that, child labour remaining a concern for the international community, prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour was becoming the main priority for national and international action.