Manesar, March 26 (IANS) There is a lack of “political will” to combat child labour, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chief said here Tuesday.
Shantha Sinha said also there was a “political-economic nexus” that did want the practice eradicated.
“Child labour is a contentious issue, a political issue. It is an issue of disturbed political-economic nexus. There are vested political interests that wants to keep it there,” she said.
The chairperson was speaking at an ‘ILO-Media Interaction on Child Labour’ here.
Sinha said the country needed a consumer movement in which people could boycott products that used child labour.
“There is unawareness among masses. It requires a movement that can mobilise them and it can be done only by politicians. But they lack the will,” she said.
According to census 2001, 12.59 million children aged five-14 work as labourers, with over 12 lakh employed in hazardous work such as bidi making or construction.
According to National Sample Survey Organisation 2009-10, there are 4.9 million child labourers in the country and an estimated 5.6 million are employed in agriculture.
Stating that child labour is involved in most of the commercial products people use, Sinha said the country was “sacrificing” its children for its economic growth.
“‘Roti’, ‘kapda’ aur ‘makaan’ (food, clothes and house) are all made by children. As many as 80 percent of children are employed in agriculture, most of them girls. On festivals, everyone is worried that crackers cause pollution but no one is sensitive towards the children who make them,” she said.
Sinha said the reason why children were made to work was because they were cheap labour, could be forced to work for longer hours, could be packed and trafficked easily.
“It is a myth that children are made to work because their families are poor or they are expected to carry on with traditional work,” Sinha said.
“These are arguments to maintain the status quo. Poverty is not the cause. It’s an argument for the cause. Family tradition is not the cause,” she said.
Sinha said they had been pushing for a child labour and adolescent prohibition bill to make working of teenagers up to the age of 18 an offence.
Tine Staermose, director, International Labour Organisation-India, said recession brought in more children into forced labour.
Appraising about ILO pilot project of ‘Converging Against Child Labour: Support for India’s Model’, Tine said the project was developed in response to a need that elimination of child labour required a concerted action.
She said the project worked in five states and focused on education, skill, family livelihood and social protection.