The owner of the garage where I take my bike for servicing employs a kid as his hand. While the owner of the barber's shop I visit cut the customers' hairs, his underage child do the shaving for his father. UNICEF statistics shows that India has 12 million child labour (2001 data). National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) puts the current figure much higher. Yesterday(12 June) was World Day Against Child Labour, launched by International Labor Organization(ILO) in 2002 to highlight the plight of the children. But I doubt how many knew about it. (I didn't know myself; found it out from today's newspaper only). Incidentally, the Bollywood movie 'Stanley ka Dabba', which highlights the issue of underage children being forced into manual labor released just a month ago, on 13th May.
Though I am not sure how effective it is to dedicate a day in order to create awareness about child labour, but I must say the NGOs are doing a pioneering work to educate these underprivileged children and bring them back to the mainstream society. Save The Children, CINI ASHA are some of the NGOs to reckon with. I attended a seminar by CINI ASHA few years back and was quite impressed to learn what they do and their network of supporters and donors. These NGOs persuade the needy parents to send their children to the learning centers run by them free of cost.
But in India the very definition of 'child' and 'child labour' is ambiguous. According to Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 one who is not 14 years of age is child; the Factories Act, 1948 puts the age at 15 years and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 puts it at 18 years. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 defines two different ages for boys (21 years) and Girls (18 years) as the age of reaching maturity. It seems, the Right to Education Act which came into force from 1st April, 2010 would put into rest all confusion about the definition of child and hence the child labour. The act makes education a fundamental right for every child between the ages 6 and 14 years.
Let's do whatever we can to eradicate the evil and hope for a child labour free India in the near future