Child labour is one the most inhumane and cruel social evils in our society. Child labour has relegated our society down to the bottom. It has put the future of our Valley at stake. It is very unfortunate that despite the strict laws existing against the child labour, the illegal practice is rising with each passing day. As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, the number of child labourers, kids under 14 years of age, is more than one lakh. Twenty five years of conflict have boosted this unfortunate trend. These children are being deprived of their childhood which badly affects their physical and mental strength. They are being employed in industries, factories, brick kilns, handicrafts work, carpet weaving, motor workshops, working as bus conductors and so on. It is not only a social issue but it is a menace in which everybody is involved from common man to heads of the state. The most common causes of child labour are poverty and lack of education among the parents and guardians. Children belonging to poorest families are forced to help their families financially .Consequently they are forced to become child labourers. They are forced to work in mines and industries and other places because of their poverty. The other important cause of child labour is illiteracy and ignorance of parents. In the educated societies people are well acquainted with the benefits of education. They are well aware of the fact that going to school will enable their children pursue and achieve better employment operations. On the other hand illiterates undermine the value and importance of education. Besides these, child marriage, expensive higher education, lack of effective primary education can be attributed to causes of child labour. Child labour carries serious consequences that can be detrimental to the child’s overall development and society as a whole. Some of the worst consequences are: Loss of quality childhood: Children sweating out for the survival of their families can never enjoy the quality childhood they ideally should. They lack leisure as most of their time is spent in working and earning for their families Health issues: Working at their budding stage makes them prone to various health issues as they cannot match the stamina of adults. They often fall prey to the various diseases. As a result they become physically weak. Illiteracy: Children toiling hard to earn livelihood for their family can never go to school for their education. They are not able to get even the basic education. Indulging in Criminal Activities: Children, who are not able to get education, often fail to differentiate between right and wrong. They have prone to moral degradation. Consequently, they indulge in anti-social activities. Many juvenile cases have been reported so far and are increasing at a very fast rate. Emotional alienation: Children earning for their families often feel disheartened at seeing their mates enjoying and playing. They develop a sense of alienation. As a result of this emotional stress, they often indulge in violent and many a times criminal activities. No problem on earth is without a solution. To get rid of the menace of child labour, strict enforcement of laws, along with matured mindset, is more than enough to eradicate it. Awareness has to be created among the parents and guardians of the children. They are to be made aware of the value and importance of education. They need to understand that education helps one to be self-sufficient, which can lead them to eradicate the poverty and help development their nation. Awareness campaigns should be undertaken taking help of the print and electronic media. Similarly effective enforcement of laws should be undertaken. There are strong laws in place to eradicate child labour. However, the lack of enforcement often hampers their effectiveness.
We should give up the mindset that “child labour is child labour” irrespective of the places where they work. For instance, the Department of Labour considers only those cases as child labour where a child below the 18 years of age is working under an employer. In cases where children are working in unorganized sectors like carpet weaving, pashmina shawl making, and traditional family business, or work independently to support their families, are not included in child labour category. This is a ridiculous classification of child labour. What kind of humans are we that we don’t understand that they are working and earning at the cost of their childhood and their education? They should be in schools and play grounds where they develop their physical and social skills while also enjoying the best time of their lives. It’s our social and moral responsibility to help these children do what they ought to do in their age. Why don’t we come out of this ‘chalta hai’ attitude? We all know how special childhood memories are. Help these children make good memories of their childhood as it never comes back. Let us help these children to enjoy their childhood. Let these children be children not labourers. Let’s make this valley child labour free. Let’s make it a real paradise on earth.