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Child Labour - the Child Is the Father of Man Quoted by William Wordsworth

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"The child is the father of man." This famous line quoted by William Wordsworth refers to the importance of the child for the development of society as well as for the all-round development of the human race. Childhood is the time to garner the best physical, intellectual and emotional capacity to fulfill this duty towards the nation and to one's own self. However, this simple rule of nature has been crippled by the ever-growing menace of child labour. If one conceives the idea of child labour, it brings before the eyes the picture of exploitation of little, physically tender, illiterate and under-nourished children working in hazardous and unhealthy conditions.

About 250 million children between the age of five and fourteen work in developing countries. At least 120 million of these children work on a full-time basis. In India the conservative estimate is about 11.3 million (according to the 1991 censure), but the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated it at 23.2 million 1996. Both estimates include full-time and marginal child workers. Most working children in rural areas are found in agriculture; many work as domestic labourers; urban children work in the trade and services sector; while some other work in manufacturing and construction. Such children range from four-years-old doing petty jobs to seventeen0years olds helping out on the family farms. Denied education and a normal childhood, some children, confined and beaten, are often reduced to slavery. At times they are denied freedom of movement - the right to leave the workplace and visit their families. Some are abducted and forced to work. Instances of human rights abuses in such practices are clear and acute.

Child agricultural workers frequently work for long hours in the heat, haul heavy loads of grains, are exposed to toxic pesticides, and suffer high rates of injury from sharp, dangerous tools. Children working in factories often work near hot furnaces, handle hazardous chemicals like arsenic and potassium, work in glass blowing units where the work harms their lungs, damages their eyes and causes disease like tuberculosis, asthma and bronchitis. Some are injured in fire accidents. They become unemployable at the age of 20. if injured or incapacitated, they are mercilessly discarded by their employers. Child domestic workers, mostly girls, work for long hors for little or no pay. They are subjected to verbal and physical abuse, at times even sexual abuse. They may be fired from their work, losing not only the job but their place of shelter as well. Millions of children are involved in work that, under any circumstances, is considered unacceptable for children, including the sale and trafficking of children into debt bondage, serfdom, and forced labour. It includes the forced recruitment of children for armed conflict, commercial sexual exploitation, and other illicit activities, such as drug trafficking.

The prevalence of child labour is a slap on the conscience of society. It harms not only the present generation but also the posterity. The origin of the problem of child labour can be traced to some complex social vices illiteracy, poverty, inequality, failure of social welfare schemes, population explosion, etc. The root cause lies in the economic insecurity of families that results from job loss, natural calamities, and sickness of parents in poor families that are often in debt and have no savings. Children of the poor have become an expendable commodity. The children either supplement their poor parents' income or are the only wage earners in the family. Discrimination based on gender, race or religion is also responsible for the problem of child labour. Domestic employers often compel poor children to work for minimal wages. Also, work is relatively easy to get in households. Thus, the household sector employs the largest number of children labourers. Sometimes, child labour is deliberately facilitated by vested interests to get cheap labour. Employers justify this with the logic that it saves children from starvation and prevent them from being sucked into the world of crime. The "nimble finger theory" holds that children are better producers of certain products such as knotted carpets and other such kinds of goods. Hence, poor children are hired, exploited and made to work and produce such types of goods.

The government says that it is not easy to completely end child labour. it, therefore, has only tried to improve their working conditions--reducing working hours, ensuring minimum wages and providing facilities for health and education. It can be said that the government measures have three main components



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