India has the largest child labour force in the world. The number of working children in India is estimated at 150 million, a little less than half of them, being female children.

They work in the fields, at home, in shops hotels, Dhabas, in the industry and in the mines. They sell newspapers, repair our vehicles and clean our utensils. In fact, child labour is ubiquitous.

There are many factors which have forced parents to send their children to the factories and fields to work there as labourers. The main factor is the abject poverty prevailing in the villages and some urban areas.

Poor parents look upon their children as their bread earners. The more, the better. Reversely, large families make it incumbent upon parents to force their children into labour so as to supplement the income of the family.

They find it difficult to provide for all the children at home. As child labour is cheap, factory owners encourage poor parents to make their children to work in the factories and other establishments.

There are certain crafts like the carpet Weaving where child labour is preferred to grown-up labourers. Moreover, the absence of laws against child labour or the iron-implementation of the existing laws has also led to an increase in the number of child labourers.

Engaging children as labourers is a social evil. It gives rise to exploitstion of the children as they are not protected by any law. In many cases, small children, both male and female working as factory hands or as Chotoos‘ in Dhabas and tea shops or as helping hands in homes, are physically abused.

They are made to work for longer hours and are paid fewer wages. They are usually ill-treated by their masters. They are neglected by their families. In many cases, they fall in bad hands and join the ranks of the anti-social elements.

Of late, the government and the public have realised the injustice involved in employing children as labourers. The radio and television are being used to awaken the conscience of the people. Child labour laws passed in 1986 and 1987 are being implemented in letter and spirit.

But mere passing of bills and making of laws is not enough. The main factor responsible for this evil is economic backwardness of the masses coupled with illiteracy and ignorance Steps need to be taken to eradicate poverty.

People in a democracy have a right to two meals a day. They must get work. An awakening towards the rights of children can take place if education is provided to them. Ignorance must be removed. Parents should be encouraged to send their children to schools to get an education.

Recently, the American administration has banned the import of all those goods which involve the use of child labour at any stage. This has forced many countries to take eradication of child labour seriously as otherwise it is bound to affect their exports.

It is hoped that children in India will get their childhood back soon. Instead of sweating in factories and fields, they will experience the sweet joys of childhood.

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