By Sonali Bhatnagar, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.

Everything has been said already; but as

No one listens, we must always begin again.

                                                                                               -Andre Gide

What is Child Labour? Child labour is commonly defined as work done by children under the age of 18 years that may be harmful to their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development[1]. Is not a recent phenomenon and again, not confined to a particular country. More than 200 million[2] children around the world today are deprived of a childhood. Forced to work in fields, mines and factories, many children’s plight is highly visible. But many more children suffer in the hidden dimensions of child labour, such as domestic work, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and slavery. Today, one out of every seven children in the world is involved in child Labour[3]. Child labour covers every non-school going child irrespective of whether the child is engaged in wage or non-wage work; whether he or she is working for their family; whether employed in hazardous or non-hazardous occupations; whether employed on a daily or on a contract basis or as a bonded laborers[4]. Child labour has a long history; it exists in various forms such as street trading, gardening, child caring, handicrafts, prostitution and trafficking and factors such as poverty, ignorance, culture, corruption, ineffective laws and the lack of will to enforce them, are some causes of child labour.

‘Child labour exists because we allow it to exist’[5]. Child labour exists because we make excuses for it. How come can someone make excuses for child labour it is unacceptable. Children are deprived from their Right of education. The education proves to be high, whether it is direct such as school fees, or because of indirect, such as shoes, uniforms, materials, transport, meals and other things, including the burden that a child earns nothing. And the biggest loss is that our own government fails in performing its duties and eliminating child labour from its roots and we the people even have not done enough to bring an END to child labour because most often we are not able to see it or we try to ignore it. There is a cultural acceptance of children not in school.


Child labour has been categorized into different forms: Prostitution, pornography and drugs-related work, Children used in crime, armed conflict, Domestic child servants, Child trafficking these are some of the worst forms of Child laboring. But do you think child labour is harmful? No! But, let’s be clear on this: child labour is any labour that prevents a child from receiving a full time formal education. Helping around the house or farm, or working in a local shop on weekends or for a few hours after school during the week is not child labour. In fact, this kind of work can be good for a young person it helps them learn valuable life skills. However, if this work prevents a child from receiving a full time education and when it contravenes existing laws, it becomes child labour. As we all belong from country which is very well known for its myths. So, how could people remain back in this and do not try to make some myths about child labour. And yes, there are some myths about child labour and I would like to confess some of them. According to people poverty causes child labour and prevents a child from going to school. But, the fact is child labour causes poverty by keeping children in low paid working. Producers are happy to keep child as a labour because they are available at cheaper or sometime for free. And in this way adults are kept out from work and children are denied from their Right to Education which can break this cycle of poverty.

‘People believe there are many reasons why children are better off working, but nobody asks the parents of a middle class child why they are sending their children to school. It’s a double standard – every child, rich or poor must be allowed their right to full-time formal education.’[6]

Exactly, what is education? Why is it important? Why our government wants it to be compulsory?  Why rich and middle class people are sending their children to school? And regarding with my essay what is the use of right to education? These are some questions which clicks everyone’s mind once a while, when they think about education in context with child labour. “Education” is a derivative of the Latin verb “educate” meaning ‘to bring up’, ‘to lead out’, ‘to rise up’, ‘to inform’, ‘to teach’ and ‘to train’[7]. Originally, to educate means to use all the potentialities of an individual. Education is therefore a process of learning, acquiring and transferring knowledge, training, skills, and ideas. And when, every child has a right to education and this right is a human right which can provide an individual an opportunity to lift himself out of poverty. And this right to education can bring a great impact on children’s future life. But, still In many countries, child labour is a major barrier for access to education[8].

“Education systems fail to take into account the special circumstances of working children. Most working children want to go to school”[9].

Not only, has the education system evened the parents or family of a child acts as a barrier for children’s to access education. In the light of such realities, the notion of rural parents “not understanding the ‘value’ of education” must be seriously reviewed because education simply does not have value unless it is of a good quality[10]. ‘Education is a torch that can help to guide and illuminate the lives of those children excluded from access to education[11]. Government should take the responsibility and make it sure that everyone acknowledges education. It should also be in interest with society and helps in development. Every child deserves a chance that only education can provide; chance to escape poverty; chance to live healthy; chance to live free from any type of exploitation and chance to have fun.

To better understand the interrelationship between child labour and education it is important to change the way you look, let me show you the way I look. Children are pulled into work as a result of household poverty. And to counter these factors we need to go beyond education. On the other hand, children are pushed out of school because they cannot access education or because education is of a poor quality, inaccessible or irrelevant. Need to give greater attention, like the availability of water at school, sanitation for girls in school, the accessibility of education can help in overcoming these factors.

So, according to our Constitution Article 24[12] a Fundamental Right directs that children below the age of 14 cannot be employed in any hazardous occupations. The article must be understood and interpreted in the light of relevant Directive Principle of State Policy contained in part IV of the Constitution, as held by the Supreme Court in Unnikrishnan J.P. The Directive Principle provided in Articles 39 clauses (e) and (f) urge that the tender age of children not be abused and argue for not allowing citizens to do work which is unsuitable because of their age or strength or on account of economic necessity. Though Directive Principles are not enforceable in courts, they embody the vision of the framers of the Indian Constitution. The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986, prohibit the working of children in industries. Another Directive Principle – Article 45 – enjoins upon the State a duty to provide free and compulsory education to all children until they reach fourteen years of age. Article 45 mandates the State to provide for early Childhood care and education for all Children until they complete the age of six years. Article 51A (K) makes it fundamental duty of every citizen who is parent to provide opportunities for education of his Child between the age of six and fourteen years. Article 21-A (added by 86th Amendment 2002) provides for Right to Education: The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such a manner as the State may, by Law, determine.

In the above Para we studied about what laws have been made by the government. Now, we will focus on how these laws are implemented and what others ways are used to get rid of child labour. This procedure is described in two ways national and international. India has to make some international commitment by adopting universal declaration of human rights 1948 and also by joining the UN Convention on the rights of the child 1989. “According to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory…” and Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes “the right of children to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity”. Basic education is a human right and yet, there are millions of out-of-school children around the world today. Child labour denies children their right to a full-time, formal, quality education”[13].

“Why had his mother gone to the trouble of bringing him into the world if the most exciting moment in his life was having been made lame by a bayonet (bayonet of Child labour)?”[14]

[1] UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

[2] By Development Education Unit, Concern Worldwide


[4] A practice in which employers give high-interest loans to workers whose entire families then labor at low wages to pay off the debt; the practice is illegal in the United States

[5] Ms. Santa Sinha, Chair of Children’s Rights Commission, India.

[6] MV Foundation, INDIA


[8] Recent data from the International Labour Organization

[9] UNICEF: The State of the World’s Children 1999, at page. 47

[10] Addressing child labour through education: A study of alternative /complementary initiatives in quality education

delivery and their suitability for cocoa-farming communities

[11] UNESCO Education for All monitoring report 2003/4

[12] Law Commission of India, One Hundred Sixty Fifth Report, November 1989, page.18

[13]Concern Child Labour Resource, by development education unit, concern worldwide.

[14] Félix J. PalmaThe Map of Time