By Dr Khursheed Ahmad Wani
Every one of us is desirous to see our children excel in every walk of life. The ambition to make them IAS, KAS officers, or doctors and engineers is almost engraved in our thoughts. However, what they become is decided by plethora of factors. Some say it is genetic, some believe it is the environment, some argue it is their destiny. But an unfortunate chunk of population is destined to work in extremely poor environmental and harsh conditions. That is always a bitter truth for those who think and advocate children are the greatest gift to humanity and childhood is an important and impressionable stage of human development as it holds the potential to the future development of any society, but here they forgot these words and they can see only their children in this robe. They believe children who are brought up in an environment which is conducive to their intellectual, physical and social health; grow up to be responsible and productive members of society. But keep distance when they witness large number of children working in various sectors that increase GDP of the nation, by performing work when they are too young for the task, children unduly reduce their present welfare or their future income earning capabilities, either by shrinking their future external choice sets or by reducing their own future individual productive capabilities. Under extreme economic distress, children are forced to forage educational opportunities and take up jobs which are mostly exploitative as they are usually underpaid and engaged in hazardous conditions. Parents decide to send their child for engaging in a job as a desperate measure due to poor economic condition. It is therefore, no wonder that the poor household predominantly send their children to work at the expense of education and our so called leaders and well wishers of society do not wish to see this and take these things for granted and act like blind leaders. There is a strong effect of child labour on school attendance rates and the length of a child’s work day is negatively associated with his or her capacity to attend school. Child labour restricts the right of children to access and benefit from education and denies the fundamental opportunity to attend school. Child labour, thus prejudices children education and adversely affects their health and safety.
Employment deprives the child of the profound pleasure of childhood that every parent dream off. Heavy nature of work ruins his delicacy. Hard and hazardous conditions of work develop numerous physical, mental and social deformities in his personality. Long duration of work brings scanty and insufficient wages to him. Contact with school and other healthy associations becomes distant reality for them. Even if the fortune provides him with such contacts in more or less forms, the misfortune of employment becomes a great hurdle in the way of getting any advantage from them. Without developing any sense or awareness he goes on suffering the atrocious consequences of the employment. He does not sense even the least the heavy loss which he is going to cause to his own society. Expectancy of his life becomes considerably short. Thus employment of the child, overall, becomes a great impasse in the process of his personality development and this poses a serious challenge to all those responsibly concerned with the child development work.
Social problems in any society in the form of child labour or some else always continue to exist. No society can be either heard or seen perfectly organized, having no signs of perversion or deviation. But it does not mean also that the society cannot be alleviated from the encumbrance of social problems. With the fast advancement in sociological researcher and their applied uses, it has now become possible to case the hard conditions for favourable and happy living. Practice of employing children has existed in all the periods of human history, although the mode magnitude and sector of their employment had been different from time to time. In old days, prior to the introduction of industrialization, this practice, for example, was confined only to restricted forms and sectors. The children of lower castes were used to be employed on bond basis. The reasons behind this were mainly their improvement and slavery. All the castes, which were engaged in craft work. Such as goldsmith, blacksmith, carpenters, potter etc. were also regularly employing their children to do work with elderly persons in order to have perfection in caste trades as the sole source of livelihood for the caste members. Even today his practice exists in rural India to a great extent. Besides above, many of the castes, except Brahmins and Kashatriyas, engaged in agriculture on their own or other fields, used to employ children to utilize their services in various forms. Even today, with Brahmins and Kashatriyas not falling exceptions to it now, a sizable number of children can be witnessed, working in different capacities on the fields. Employing children on large scales was a matter of interest as well as preference for both the employers and the parents. Employers preferred for the reason of the payment of minimum of wages and having maximum of exploitation. Parents had the interest for the reasons of the easy availability of employment and cash payment of wages. In the beginning regulations lacked to have check over such vicious tendencies of employers and parents. The result was an unchecked entrance of children, in a considerable number, to large scale as well as small scale industries, and other areas of work. The various legal provisions enacted by the Government of India, from time to time, are the sufficient proofs in this regard. After legal enactment, the strict implementations of legislative provisions through different government succeeded gradually to have checks on entrance of children to major industries. It was done so because the conditions of work for children in such industries were really very hard and in human. Today major factories can be rarely and exceptionally noticed, violating legislative provisions in regard to the employment of children. But areas of work, other than major factories, pertaining to organized and unorganized sectors, and having private ownerships, still continue to employ children on large scale. The practice, as reveled by various studies, persists for various reasons, such as wrong entry about the age and health of children by employers in their registers, Bad realtions between employers and inspectorial staff of industry and labour department, deliberate neglecting and slackness by inspectorial staff and other government agencies viewing the helplessness of children and their families etc. Anyway, whatever the factors may be, the practice of employing children openly exists. The state of Jammu & Kashmir is not exception to this phenomenon. Children can be seen employed at construction industry, weaving industry, baking industry, carpet industry etc in almost every part of the state. The large number of children from outside state is working in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and we were unable to restrict them, most of us are happy to employ them in their homes for the domestic work as they are being paid minimum. We have to think, ponder and act, if we want them to be the part of future development in true sense, as we wish our children to become the real ambassadors of nation.
(The author teaches Environmental Science at GDC Bijbehara and is associated with ALACC Naina)