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Within the child, lies the fate of the future.


Children are the greatest gift to humanity. We consider childhood as the golden age of one’s life. But this does not seem true when they are forced to earn for their livelihood from the very beginning of their childhood. The age, where they are supposed to learn and play, are coerced to work in factories, offices, and, domestic help. Children who are bought up in this environment are often subject to exploitation as they are usually underpaid and forced to do hazardous activities. Child labour is an evil eye of society that exists from ancient India. The government has enacted various laws for eradicating this evil from the society. However, it is a shame on the society that despite various attempts, the situation still exists in the deep roots of Indian society. India is also a signatory of various conventions to stop child labour. But the irony is that the economic conditions and the ignorance of law compel them to indulge in the same.


The term ‘child labour’ means, exploitation of children by involving them in any work that affects their mental and physical nature. And, that work deprives them of their basic fundamental right to education and recreational activities. The data of 2012 reveals that over 10.2 million children are an unwanted part of the labour force. This represents the incapability of our nation which cannot provide a progressive environment for the growth of children.


The sinful act of child labour is not a new concept; rather it is present from time immemorial. It exists from ancient times where the children were part of the cruel slavery system. They were born as slaves, lived as a slave, and died as slaves. The then existed legal system did not provide for any remedy. The pressure of unpaid debt on the poor farmers compelled the children to work as labour. The families also used to hypothecate their children in case of an unavoidable economic crisis. However, there is a silver lining in the Mughal period when the Mughal Emperor Jahangir strictly prohibited child labour. But this didn’t last in post-Jahangir reigns.

In the British era, the Revolution in Industries destroyed the family-based economy. For this, they again forced the children to work not only for themselves but for their families. In the mid of 19th century due to the extreme rise in production children were employed in jute, cotton mills, or coal mines even for underground work. However, some activists brought this evil into the limelight which led to the enactment of the first legislation in 1881.


Economic factors

  • One of the main economic factors that lead to child labour is poverty. The poor families usually have more children as they think more the children they have there will be more hands to earn. Also quoted as a reason by SC in “PUCL vs UOI”.
  • Parental illiteracy could be the one economic factor that contributes to this issue. Uneducated parents think education is an investment compared to the earning they earn for engaging them in work.
  • Employers also prefer child labours as they can afford more workers in fewer amounts.
  • Unemployment among adults may the reason for child labour. Because unemployment is not only an economic problem but affects every aspect of humanity.
  • Indebtedness and migration of workers from rural to urban areas.

Social factors

  • The enlarged family structure is also responsible for child labour in India. As the families in India think the child comes in the world with one mouth and two working hands. Smaller the composition of a family needs to send the children for work will be less.
  • Indian society has an agrarian social attitude. When the harvesting is on the peak there is a prime requirement of labours. The poor families to earn more engaged their children at work.
  • The absence of facilities for compulsory education and the absence of schemes for family allowances are also reasons to force the Childs to engage in employment.



The first act enacted to regulate child labour was the “Indian Factories Act, 1881”. This act defines a child as a person below the age of 12 years and fixed the minimum and maximum age between 7-12 years. The act was amended in 1891, which defines a child as a person below 14 years of age. And, it fixed the minimum and maximum age for employment between 9-14 years.

Employment of Children Act was enacted in 1933 on the recommendations of the 23rd session on labour conference. The act prohibits the employment of any child below the age of 15 years in any kind of employment. It also provides punishment in case of breach up to 1 month or a fine up to Rs500 and both.


After independence the Indian Constitution provides to protect the child rights under various articles like- 23, 24, 45 and, 243G read with Schedule 11. The Indian Govt also enacted several acts to protect the child rights and abolish child labour namely-

  • The Factories Act, 1948
  • The child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
  • The Mines Act, 1952
  • Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  • The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act
  • Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection) Act, 2000

Every act prohibits the employment of a child below the age of 14 years. And “ The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2000 mandates the education of a child between 6-14 years of age.

The National Education Policy on child labour, 1987 provides for the rehabilitation of children working in hazardous workings.  The Govt in 2015 approves a proposal to allow children below 14 years of age to work in entertainment and family enterprises with certain conditions. India has ratified the International Conventions on child labour. 1) UN Convention on the Rights of Child 1989, 2) International Labour Organization. In 2016, the parliament made an amendment in the “child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. This imposes a complete ban on the employment of a child below 14 years in certain occupations like- bidi-making, mines, power looms, and domestic works.


Though there are numerous laws to protect child rights, child labour is like an incurable disease that takes decades to cure. The enactment of laws cannot eradicate this evil from our society. There should be a proper mechanism to ensure the proper and actual implementation of laws. Children are the future of the nation, so it is the collective responsibilities of citizens, government and, society to provide a productive environment for children to bring out their capabilities.



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