Child labour a major concern in J&K
SRINAGAR: About 5000 children are labourers in Jammu and Kashmir but independent data on child labour in the Union Territory shows that there are more than one lakh child labourers ,most of whom work in the handicraft sector, automobile workshop, brick kilns, agriculture and as domestic servants in homes. Thousands of children are seen working as vendors, bus conductors and auto drivers.
According to 2021 Survey ,the total child labour population in India was 81.2 lakh which is expected to decline further to 74.3 lakh by 2025.State level estimates reveal that by 2025 only four states will be having about three fifths(56)percent of country’s total child labour population. The States are UP,Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan .
Child labour means the hard and heavy work for money done by the velvet and fragile hands of children, like many parts of the world is a defining feature of Jammu and Kashmir social life as well. Despite the existence of many strict laws against this menace, the number of children working as laborers in various sectors is on the rise across J&K. Though the backbreaking labour is largely seen as an offence, it seems that we, as one people, are yet not prepared to prevent it or abandon it on ground level.
Some parents force their children to engage their children to engage in hard labour due to poverty or lack of support. But it is largely an act of sharing the burden or mere exploitation by society that children are seen engaged in hazardous labour in various social sectors. Horticulture sector is the prime example.
Similarly, hundreds of minor children can be seen doing manual labour in Dhabas, restaurants, railway stations; working as drivers/ conductors and construction workers; pruning apple trees, picking apple, carrying apple boxes and doing other hazardous tasks to earn some rupees for their family.
According to the United Nations figures, there are an estimated 152 million children in child labour; 72 million among them are in hazardous work. In the least developed countries, more than one in four children (ages 5-17) are engaged in labour seen as detrimental to their health and development.
According to experts,though no child would be happy to work as a labourer, it is the abject financial position, backwardness and low educational awareness of people in an area which have pushed children into the smithy of labour. Moreover, the ongoing political situation across the world has added to the number of child laborers: thousands of children have lost their parents and guardians during the conflict and without a breadwinner, these children get trapped in the mire of child labour aimed at supporting their families”.
“The unfortunate act has struck deep roots in J&K in the presence of statutory laws, anti-child labour rights bodies and commissions apart from a mushroom growth of educational institutions: thousands of children can be seen working at home as domestic servants, as carpet weavers, etc. and outside home in various other sectors. The non- stop operation of the menace is a big reason to worry, he added.
Meanwhile to curb the menace of Child Labour in the country the Ministry of Labour and Employment has been implementing National Child Labour Project Scheme for rehabilitation of child labourers through District Project Societies under the chairmanship of the District Magistrate Under the NCLP scheme ,the children in the age group of 9 to 14 are rescued /withdrawn from work and enrolled in the NCLP Special Training Centres, where they are provided with bridge education, Vocational training mid-day meal, health care before being mainstreamed into formal educations system. Beside government efforts, Parents, teachers and preachers can play a key role in closing the door on child labour, they can take care of a child’s health and education. Turning a blind eye to the humanitarian issue is an invitation to dark future.