Child labour takes place when children are forced to work at an age when they are expected to study and enjoy their phase of innocence. It implies deprived childhood that leads to exploitation of children in various forms.
Factors such as poverty, lack of social security, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor have adversely affected children more than any other group. We have failed to provide universal education, which results in children dropping out of school and entering the labour force.
These days we see many minor boys and girls working in tea stalls, restaurants, hotels and other small shops. Some work in huge factories like brick factories. Children are employed illegally in various industries. But agriculture is the largest sector where children work at early ages to contribute to their family income. Rural areas employ 85 percent of the child labour in India. They are forced to work at young ages due to factors such as poverty, unemployment, a large family size, and lack of proper education. Child labour in India is now not confined to the agricultural sector. In recent times, children are engaged into activities such as beedi-making, brick kilns, carpet weaving, commercial sexual exploitation, construction, fireworks and matches factories, dhabas, hotels, hybrid cottonseed production, leather, mines, quarries, silk, synthetic gems, etc.
Collective efforts are needed on the part of society and the government to put an end to the practice of child labour. The government should bring down the incidence of child labour through reform and investment in education. Mid-day meals should be re-emphasized; homeless children should be provided housing through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan boarding schools, and laws banning child labour should be more strictly enforced. The authorities should incorporate a provision for surprise checks and establish a separate vigilance cell. Employers should compulsorily take steps for the intellectual, vocational and educational well-being and upliftment of a child worker.
Efforts should be made towards poverty eradication combined with educational reforms to provide free or affordable access to quality education. Only by taking comprehensive steps, the Government can hope to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2020.