Childhood is the most sensitive part of the life of every human being. The impression received during this phase of life are basic building block and indelible. Psychologically, the character of a person develops during this part of life.
Wordsworth has wisely stated, "Child is the father of man."
Children, all over the world, are the future of mankind and reflect the quality of life they get. What they get from society today will be returned in the same coin when they grow up.
India is a home to one-fifth of the world's children. But it is a difficult task to look after them. Their condition should be a matter of grave and urgent concern to all. Exploitation, insecurity, child labour, and malnutrition are some of the major problems that ail them. The unending and aggravating menace of child labour is a wake-up call for the government to draw serious attention to this matter. Though there is no universally accepted definition of child labour. Generally, work done by a child under the age of 14 years is said to be child labour. India has the highest number of child labourers and the number continues to grow.
Poor education system and poverty are two chief sources of child labour. The present system imparts minimal skills to children inspite of exaggerated claims on paper. The state governments have failed to provide meaningful education to children. Most laws on education do not cover 15-18 year age group. Most of the children are dropouts, unskilled and end up as a part of casual and untrained workforce.
Secondly, poverty forces children of all age groups into work to supplement their family's income. Sometimes parents mortgage their child labour to local money lenders or some rich households. While some other of them who are unable to afford food and treatment abandon them. Most of these children wander off and are lured by traffickers, ultimately leading them to be used as a forced labour, most probably. Moreover, child labour is cheap and safe because they are trouble free and wages are just not at all problematic. Hunger and poverty drive them to do any kind of minial or hazardous task.
Our constitution provides certain rights to children and prohibits child labour. In fact, Right against exploitation (Article 23-24) is our fundamental right. Article 24 states children belonging to the age-group of below 14 years are prohibited from being employed. Article 21 provides right to life and liberty and is not suspended even during emergency. It added Article 21(A) by the 86th Amendment Act 2002, which ensures that state shall arrange for free and compulsory education to all the children of the age group 6-14 years. The very same amendment also added Article 51 A(k) that made incumbent parents or guardians to provide education to their children.
Childhood is the most innocent and beautiful beginning of human life on earth. As sapling grows into a fruitful tree, so children grows into a life full of opportunities and potential hopes. Child labour denies the joy of childhood to them. This naturally deprive them of mental and physical development. Working for long hours and unable to voice their protest against exploitation, they are subject to retarded mental growth. They lack social contacts and are devoid of emotional support from their family and society. Though there are abundant laws to improvise their condition, but they are unable to get it appropriately. Proper implementation of the existing laws, programs and schemes is the need of the hour. We must try our best to not deprive them of their innocent smiles and merriments. This is because it is impossible to recall and restore the days rolling out of the life spans of these children.