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New Delhi: Golu is 12 years old and wants to go to school like all other children of his age. But for him, it is just a dream as he has to spend his entire day cleaning dirt and dishes at a roadside dhaba in south Delhi.
Raju, a 10-year-old from Jharkhand, toils on the streets in the national capital selling flowers along with his younger brother.
These are not just the stories of Golu or Raju; there are thousands of children who continue to work on streets, in eateries, shops and homes in Delhi and elsewhere for a living.
They have no idea of the ‘World Day Against Child Labour,' which the nation observed on Sunday.
“What is this day? Where is it observed? Will there be chocolates?” asks Golu, when told about the importance of the day.
The same was the reaction of Raju, who wishes to earn a lot of money so that his family can afford a decent living. “I don't like this [the job], but I am doing this to earn money for my family.”
According to the Census 2001, there are 12.6 million child labourers in the country. However, the International Labour Organisation and civil society estimate their number at between 40 million and 45 million.
Approximately, 70 per cent of children work on agricultural fields and yet, the child labour laws in India do not recognise this category of working children.
According to Thomas Chandy of the international NGO, ‘Save the Children,' child labourers are deprived of schooling, good health and nutrition, exposed to hazards at workplace and vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and violence.
“These affect the growth and development of the child and limit his or her potential to grow into an empowered and productive person,” Mr. Chandy told PTI.
In October 2006, the government amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, enforcing a ban on employment of children under 14. However, it seems to be only on paper, say experts.
“The law is fine, but the problem remains in its implementation at the ground level. And unless the community decides to act against employing children, the law can't alone solve the problem,” said Dola Mahapatra, national director, Child Fund India.
Moreover, the anti-Child Labour Act does not prohibit all forms of child labour, nor has the existing law been implemented effectively. “It needs to be harmonised and brought in line with the Right to Education Act, 2009,” Mr. Chandy said.
There was no minimum age limit for entry into employment in India. Unfortunately, India had not ratified ILO convention 138 (Minimum Age) and ILO Convention 182 (worst form of child labour), he said. — PTI
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