Nobel to Satyarthi is a call to ensure 'beautiful childhood' for our children

Sudhanshu MittalFirst, let me congratulate Sh. Kailash Satyrathi of Bachpan Bachao Andolan for making India proud by winning the Nobel Peace Prize. However, as all Indians do feel a great sense of pride, I think this prize is also a reminder for all of us that the problem of child labour continues to confront us. 

According to the Census 2001 figures there were 1.26 crore working children in the age group of 5-14 as compared to the total child population of 25.2 crore. There were approximately 12 lakhs children working in the hazardous occupations/processes which were covered under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act i.e. 18 occupations and 65 processes. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) conducted a survey in in 2004-05 where the number of working children was estimated at 90.75 lakh. As per Census 2011, the number of working children in the age group of 5-14 years was around 43.53 lakh.

I am sharing with my readers some official figures which show that how lackadaisical we have been when it comes to prosecutions and convictions in cases where laws prohibiting child labour are violated.

Enforcement Figures on Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 for the last five years

Year

Inspections

Violations

Prosecutions

Convictions

2009

328077

8709

5633

1489

2010

255176

11182

4570

1536

2011

150771

14411

6011

976

2012

164453

12019

5018

1144

2013

174994

8859

3486

1041

Total

1073471

55180

24718

6186

The above figures also indicate that the gap between violations and prosecutions has been increasing. For example in year 2013, against 55180 cases of violations, the convictions were abysmally low at 6186.
We need a three pronged approach to meet the challenge posed by the large number of child labour in India. First, we need to get a comprehensive data base on child labour which should be updated in real time. There can be a national information grid on that. This would help to gauge the extent of problem and monitor the progress of various schemes and their impact.

Second, the government departments at the state level which largely handle the cases of child labour need to well equipped to handle such cases with speed, effectiveness and and a humane touch. The fear of law must be instilled in the heart of those who are cruel enough to exploit children in their factories, shops, homes and establishments.

Third, a comprehensive rehabilitation policy is required so that the child labour which is rescued does not fall into that trap again.

As a society, it is our utmost responsibility to ensure that no child is devoid of his or her rights. No government can alone achieve this objective unless the community chips in. It is time for all of us to do whatever we can to give our nation's children a a beautiful childhood as we celebrate the achievement of Sh. Kailash Satyarthi, the 10th Indian to win a Nobel Prize.

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