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Dear Editor,
I am writing this letter in reference to the article that was published by you on December 20, 2017, in the ‘Times of India’ newspaper which entitles ‘Child Labour: A Necessary Evil? You have mentioned child labour as a ‘vexed issue’, I stand by this statement, and it is a very complex problem. Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are the prime reasons responsible for this issue, so immediate efforts must be made to eradicate these causes. Children are flowers of every national garden, they should be nurtured with love and affection and should be given an equal opportunity to find their place in the society so that; they grow into responsible and responsive citizens. 

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Multinational companies such as Reebok, Nike, Levis Strauss and others exploit human labour in developing countries like India massively. These companies are called sweatshops. According to a recent survey, India remains the most preferred outsourcing destination by large private American corporations, with over 60 % of the market share in the US. The US government indicts India among countries that use child labour in their garment factories, which will surely hurt the interests of garment manufacturers and their workers by reducing the flow of orders from America. If we look at the facts your statement cannot be more accurate that ‘India is the biggest breeder of child labour’. Child labour has important demographic and social-economic implications for developing countries like India. It is driven mainly out of poverty and illiteracy.

Child labourers (from as little as 4 to as young as 17, working in dangerous sectors like fishing, mining, agriculture, hotels, bars, restaurants, and domestic services) face the same health risks as adult workers do, but at a much higher level. The lack of healthy and safe working conditions can be even more devastating and long lasting, resulting in fatal accidents, permanent disabilities, poor health, and psychological and emotional damage. These children have a greater need for food and rest, so having to work for long periods of time results in poor muscle and skeletal growth. They are small in size, unskilled, uneducated and untrained so they are more prone to accidents.

In your article you have mentioned ‘Despite of a plethora of campaigns mounted against child labour, not much difference has been made.’ This angers me, as there is no evidence to support this claim. Many policies have been formulated and provisions have been made for the healthy and balanced development of under privilege children. There are important legislations like Child (Pledging of labour) Act (Government of India, 1933), The Minimum wages Act, 1948, The Employment of Children Act (Government of India, 1938) etc., which provide legal protection to child labour in India. In Oct, 2006, the Government passed legislation to ban the employment of children below 14 years in restaurants, hotels, tea-stalls, eateries and as domestic labourers and also introduced Integrated Child Development services aimed at providing a package of services consisting of supplementary nutrition, immunisation, health check up and education and non-formal education. It also launched Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid Day Meal Scheme, Education Guarantee programme etc. to bring the child labour under the umbrella of education. People and the youth of this nation are being educated on the evil of child labour. But yes, due to the exponential grown in population and unemployment rate every year, I concur with your statement that ‘in a country like ours, with invisible and inefficient employment schemes, child labour surfaces even more as finding work for children is easier than for elders in the family.  

‘Child labour cannot be treated as an emotional or ethical issue’. I absolutely agree with this statement of yours. But just condemning child labour is silly and unproductive. One of the reasons children are forced into working at an early age is because these people have no other alternative. Desperate for money, and unable to feed their families, they inevitably place their offspring in bonded labour or worse. Furthermore, these families accepted the fact that the younger generation must carry on the family trade. They don’t shed false tears for their children. The sons and daughters of weavers, goldsmiths, tailors, carpenters and similar professions specialize in those skills, which their ancestors practiced. They do not think that their children are abused. They have merely passed on a legacy to them. Without this, these children may turn to more undesirable professions like begging, prostitution and other petty crimes.  This does not mean we should perpetuate child labour. It is a question of what viable alternatives can governments offer before legislating for its ban. Far better to let a child work and earn for his family while learning skills himself, rather than turn to begging or thieving or worse.

The problem of child labour is a complex issue, something that cannot be solved through legislation or with simplistic solutions. No doubt, labour is worship but child labour is dangerous and a blot on the conscience of society. We should never forget that today’s children are tomorrow’s citizens. If this critical problem is not tackled urgently, we can well imagine the future of our country in the days to come. Even though poverty is the pillar for this evil but we must not forget education is the key to free us from this illness.