“My child will go to school but your child will go to work”. Who are the people who have this kind of approach? People who either do not understand the economics of the child labour or are the beneficiaries of the child labour system. Still, there are people who express sympathies for the child labour but argue poverty, the reason.
The National Advisory Council (NAC) has recommended a blanket ban on child labour. Mr. Rajinder Puri, a writer and a veteran journalist and cartoonist by his write-up in Sunday Statesman 23 October 2011 has requested the NAC to reappraise its decision to impose ban on child labour. He argued, “In the era of Charles Dickens, there was child labour in Britain. With prosperity and eradication of acute poverty it is now banned. How far has acute poverty been removed in India? Should we not seriously consider radical reform of child labour before announcing an outright ban that cannot be implemented?” With due respect to our veteran journalist, I totally differ with this approach.
Supreme Court in 1993 while interpreting Article 21 (right to life with dignity) of the Constitution of India has declared right to education a fundamental right and the State will have no defense at all against this right in relation to the children upto the age of 14 years. In December 2002, Article 21-A has been inserted in the Constitution which mandates the State to provide free and compulsory education to all the children in the age group six to fourteen years in the manner as the State may by law determine.
In terms of this constitutional provision, all children have to be in school and not at work. We should appreciate that ‘compulsory education’ and ‘child labour’ cannot go together. After the insertion of Article 21-A in the Constitution, child labour upto the age of fourteen years in all its form has become unconstitutional. The Government is duty bound to amend Child Labour Act so to put blanket ban on child labour.
Parents have no moral or legal right to force children to work for the reason of poverty. On the other hand, Article 51-A (k) of the Constitution imposes a duty on the parents or guardians to provide opportunities to their wards in the age group six to fourteen year to attend school. Ordinarily, it would not be proper to blame the parents but if some parents are deliberately indulging in such illegal activity, that can not be appreciated or encouraged.
In the entire debate on the child labour, we normally overlook one thing i.e., the State’s obligation. It is the Constitutional obligation of the State to bring all the children upto the age of fourteen years in the full time mainstream school education system and provide them good quality education. If it happens, the entire child labour will disappear. Despite poverty, the State is capable enough to bring every child in school. However, the State is totally insensitive, corrupt and dishonest and has been deliberately abdicating its obligations.
Child labour is a National Shame and nobody can justify it. Need of the hour is to compel the State by all possible means to bring all the children in the mainstream school education system and to get rid of the child labour. The right place for every child is at school and not at work. Oppose child labour and Love India.