29 Dec 2011

Child Labour in India: Issues &Concerns

Child labourers have considerable stake in India’s GDP with near to eleven per cent of the total workforce being the children finds Nishit kumar, Head, Communication and Strategic Initiatives, CHILDLINE India Foundation.

Over the past ten years of about eight per cent per anum GDP growth, there has been widespread talk of India’s Demographic Dividend (share of population in 15-60 age group) arising out of the young average age of India’s population.

The theory is that the small the share of population in the below 15 and above 60, the greater the contribution of the productive population to GDP growth. Among the propagators of the India Demographic Dividend story are Dr. Manmohan Singh, Hon’ble Prime Minister and many notable figures around the world. Many present the story as though the demographic contours of India have been carefully sculpted through policy, management and governance. Far from it, India has a history of ignoring demographic trends and not preparing for it.

The 2001 census threw up the figures that children under 18 accounted for almost 43% of India’s population of about 450 million. Yet, inspite of the first UPA government manifesto of a commitment of nine per cent of annual Union budget for children, even as of 2011, a little more than four per cent is allocated towards children. In this gap between the needs of the world’s largest children’s population and (amongst) the world’s lowest per child budgets that is allocated in India is the story of Indian Children’s contribution to the GDP. The story of Child Labour in India.

The story is best unfolded by an examination of the Census data on child Labour. The Census data for child Labour has traditionally been presented as children upto 14 years:

Child Labour as reported by Census

The figure of 12.67 million as child labour has been widely reported. The department of Census, Government of India has just published provisional census data for the Census of 2010. (http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-common/censusdataonline.html) .

Once again the age wise data reported by the Census is 5-9 yrs, 10-14 yrs and 15-19 years. Since the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 has pegged the age of children, in line with international conventions, at 18, we can no longer overlook the population of working children in the age group of 15-18. However, the Census does not show this breakup.

Population of Main workers in Census, 2010:

All India Main Workers
5-9 yrs
10-14 yrs
15-19 yrs
Total India
% of child labour to total  workforce
Total workforce (all ages)

As can be seen in the table above, children upto 14 total

The Census also reports population of children in Marginal workers of India:

All India Marginal Workers
5-9 yrs
10-14 yrs
15-19 yrs
Total India
% to total  workforce
Total workforce (all ages)

Lets us see the picture when both Main workers and Marginal workers are combined:

All India Total Workforce
5-9 yrs
10-14 yrs
15-19 yrs
Total India
% to total  workforce
Total workforce (all ages)

If you take the children up to 14, the total number of children in the workforce is 12626505. Almost the same as previous census of 2001. The real picture emerges when you start adding the child work force in the ages 15-19. One could argue that 19 year olds ought to be excluded from the calculation of child Labourers. However the Census does not, as yet provide that data. However, a detailed analysis of the same shows that vast bulk of 15-19 yr olds have not completed 10th. So, they have been in the workforce before they turned 18. For the sake of discussion we have to include this age group (15-19) in the workforce.

The shocking news is that 11% of the workforce of India is child labour. One in every 10 workers in India is a child! If you allocate a tenth of India’s GDP to this share you can see India’s Child Labour has a stake in India’s GDP.

A detailed analysis of the various sectors presented in the Census data for both main and marginal workers clearly shows that some sectors are more prone to child labour than others.
What can be done about Child Labour? In 1979, the Government appointed Gurupadswamy Committee studied the issue of child labour and observed that as long as poverty remains, it would be difficult to totally eliminate child labour and hence, any attempt to abolish it through legal recourse would not be a practical proposition.

The Committee recommended a ban on child labour in hazardous areas and a multiple policy to deal with the problems of working children. Based on the recommendations of Gurupadaswamy Committee, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986. The Act prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others.

6 Dec 2011

Bringing change

hweta, a 13-year old from Kuarmunda in Sundargarh district is an active member of the Children’s Parliament since 2009. She was confident when asking her parents about her rights. Since she joined the Children’s Parliament in 2009, Shweta decided to start raising awareness on various issues related to children from her school and community. She participates regularly in the meetings of the Children Parliament and most recently in the Children’s Parliament held on June 5, 2011 at Rourkela. During the session, she confidently asked the representatives about the need to provide children in the age group of 3-6 years, supplementary nutrition in the form of a cooked, nutritious meal at the AWCs.” She supported her questions with examples to show the real situation of children. 

Shweta, a strong advocate of the Children’s Parliament talks about her experiences and realises how far her character has developed throughout the whole- the new skills and experiences with children’s parliament.

I live with my parents in a remote village near a forest and hill called Kalosiria in Kuarmunda block of Sundargarh district. I love to sit with my children’s group. I learned a lot of my rights. I play, sing and dance in my group says Shweta.

Parents sometimes show some sort of bias among their girl and boy children. Earlier my parents were not allowing me to go out except their work. Children’s parliament gave me opportunity to come out and sit with other children and learn. I told my parent to allow me to play in the afternoon like my brother. Now I am playing in the afternoon with my group. They were not allowing me earlier to play. I got the courage to ask them to play as I learnt it from my children’s cadre training of CHILDLINE. I also ask for new copy and book for me in the class which my parent any how gives me. Earlier they were only asking me to manage with the old and borrowed ones. 

“Being a member of the Children’s Parliament is an amazing experience. I have become more confident, people show me respect when they know I am a member of the Children’s Parliament. I really feel empowered and have a role to play in creating change in the situation of children in my village.”

“During last year and now, I participated in trainings carried out by CHILDLINE and trainings have developed my skills in advocating for the rights of the children in my village and learned about Child Rights and Child Protection. I feel I am knowledgeable and more informed about problems encountered by the children in my village.” 

26 Nov 2011

Making a Difference!

Urvi Wani*

As a law student I had to study various legal systems such as the Indian criminal law, juvenile justice law, etc and the laws I read with particular reference to children always troubled me, they troubled me not because these systems were bad but because they were incomplete. A legal system must ideally provide not only punitive and remedial measures but also preventive and deterrent measures. Some such measures are provided in our laws but they don’t go a long way that is when I had heard of The CHILDLINE  India Foundation’s program on Child Sexual Abuse Awareness volunteer recruitment drive, I immediately signed up to do my bit (as small as that may be) to change the status of children in India.

This program primarily focused on the preventive aspects of child sexual abuse, by creating awareness amongst young children by giving them age appropriate information. As a Volunteer I would be given the adequate training and assigned a certain number of schools wherein I would be conducting the workshops.

As one of the guinea pigs( I say Guiea Pigs because it was the very first time both for the organisation and me, and being the first timer always has its share of  testing times)  being the  very first batch of the volunteers I think we were lucky. Like a fresh slate with no scratches, our training workshops were unsoiled with no predisposed notions on the part of the participants or the speakers. Everybody was relying on their gut instinct. It was a varied experience with lectures from experts in every field related to Child Sexual Abuse, such a law, police, mental health, medicine, etc. The practical sessions on story telling were fantastic and most enjoyable! Who would have thought that a room full of adults could actually enjoy the experience of storytelling and role playing so much?!

I have never been in a classroom except as a student. That being said, I was extremely confident about conducting the workshops. I had read my material over a dozen times and had practiced voice modulations in front of a mirror and made funny faces at children on my morning jogs as an experiment to see which ones they reacted to! So when I showed up at the doors of my assigned  school on that   pleasant  february morning, it was surge of emotions I was excited,  anxious, confident , This was a great school to start with, the principle was inviting and the PTA members present and hospitable (excessively !). The story telling workshop with the younger children (std 2, 3 & 4) was wonderful! They had look at you with their eyes brimming with innocence and limitless interest. But my little bubble burst when the older ones (std 5 & 6) showed up. Getting them to sit in their seats was a mammoth task in itself! Thankfully once the story telling session began, they gradually calmed down. I don’t think I have ever been asked more difficult questions in my life, not even in the numerous oral exams I have had given in the 18 years of education.  They were so curious and they would connect random thoughts at lightning speed. And God Forbid they catch you if you make a mistake … phew !!! But trust me the experience was so addictively exciting!

Many other schools and workshops followed, a pattern began to grow. Anxious teachers wondering if this was a Sex Education workshop, an inquisitive child hoping this was a Sex Education workshop. There is this one particular incident that truly stands out. During a hot humid week in July I was conducting these workshops in one of the schools. At the end of my fourth day, a member of the CHILDLINE team called me and said she needed to tell something about a call she got in regards to my workshops of that day and then the phone line got disconnected. I was extremely nervous and even a little scared while I tried to call her back to no avail… Did I use a word I shouldn’t have? Did I say something I shouldn’t have? Did I forget something important?! I finally got back on line with her and she told me a mother had called the CHILDLINE office and my heart sunk! I knew I was in trouble, big trouble.

She then went on to tell me that the mother had heard about the workshop being conducted from her child who even narrated the stories to her. I was just about to blurt out a string of apologies when the CHILDLINE team member said that the mother was thrilled and extremely grateful that we had handled such a sensitive topic with such care. Words fall short of describing the feeling …. The parent was happy, the CHILDLINE team was happy and I was ecstatic!

This journey of ten schools of every demographic has really given me incredible insight into schools in our city and how much a school influences a child’s overall development, and what makes a good school.


*Urvi Wani, a 24- year- old lawyer is a volunteer for the CSA Awareness program in Mumbai.

7 Oct 2011

Empowering Children: Children's Parliament at Rourkela

By - Sudeesh PM*

Members of Children’s Parliament may be young, but they serve as the first line to present on children's issues and can influence the adults. Children's Parliament on Child Rights saw one of the biggest gatherings ever in the district. Organised by CHILDLINE Rourkela, three hundred students participated in the event.

The issues presented by children ranged from poor education, health facilities, education, health facilities and civic amenities, gender and caste discrimination. A 15-year-old girl who is a member in Children’s Parliament, told, the questions from children are always spontaneous and honest. Children’s Parliament discusses children issues in the presence of officials from government and other organisations.

Conducting their session just as the grown-up members of Parliament do, the child parliamentarians allowed members to present their concerns to their adult counterparts and the general public. In the meetings, children discuss serious issues like child education, child trafficking, domestic violence, hunger, child labour, Nutritional food and more.

Children's Parliament raises a strong voice on major issues

Children Parliament passed the following resolutions:

Universalization with quality: The universalization of ICDS is urgently required to protect the rights of children under six. 

Equity: In the process of universalizing ICDS, priority should be given to marginalized communities.  In particular, SC/ST hamlets should get priority in the creation of new Anganwadi Centers (AWCs).

Supplementary nutrition: For children in the age group of 3-6 years, supplementary nutrition should be provided in the form of a cooked, nutritious meal at the AWCs, using locally procured food. For children below the age of three, nutritious take-home rations (THR) based on locally procured food may be provided. 

Day care: Wherever required, day care services should be provided.  The requisite resources, infrastructure, staff, space, training etc., should be available for this purpose. 

Differently-able children: Special provisions should be made for differently-able children.  Also, surveys of children under six conducted by AWWs should include a survey of children with special needs.

Excluded children: Special provisions should also be made for other marginalized groups of children, such as street children and children of migrant families.

Emergencies: ICDS also needs to respond to disaster situations (floods, earthquakes, conflict, etc.) by opening emergency centers in the area as soon as possible.

No privatization or External Funding: There should be no privatization of any ICDS services.  Moves towards privatization, such as the introduction of user fees in ICDS, or privatization in the name of community participation, should be resisted.

Right to information: All ICDS-related information should be in the public domain.  The provisions of the Right to Information Act, including pro-active disclosure of essential information, should be implemented in letter and spirit in the context of ICDS. 

Supreme Court orders: Supreme Court orders on ICDS in the “right to food case” (PUCL vs Union of India and Others, Civil Writ Petition 196 of 2001) should be immediately implemented in letter and spirit, especially orders relating to universalization with priority to SC/ST hamlets and urban slums.

Right to food: Mid-day meals are not just an incentive for the universalization of education but an entitlement for children’s right to food. Budget allocations for mid-day meals should be raised. Proper infrastructure for mid-day meals should be mandatory, including cooking sheds, storage space, drinking water, ventilation, utensils, etc.

Social discrimination: Serious action should be taken in the event of any form of social discrimination in mid-day meals, such as discrimination against Dalit children or Dalit cooks.

The children themselves echoed this in a resolution they drafted on June 3-5, 2011 states: the root cause of all the problems the children are facing is hunger. It is the poor economic condition and non availability of food that has forced the children to become the child labour.The resolutions passed during the convention on the issues of poor education, health facilities, food, gender and caste discrimination will be sent to different officials for appropriate action.

“The children spoke and adults listened. There was proper documentation of the whole proceedings and issues referred to special committees for consideration. If only we elders lend the children our ears and let them speak out fearlessly and freely this world will be a much safer and peaceful place to live in.” said A K Azad, Director, CHILDLINE Rourkela

The programme gave a platform for children to share their problems, feelings and thoughts and to create the children aware of the powers of a parliamentary democracy. They would know how to be a responsible citizen and the importance of involving themselves in community affairs. It was a big children's get to gather ever in the district.

The District Collector and other resource organisation of the district appreciated the programme. More than 300 children parliament members from Panposh sub-division participated in a Children’s Parliament organised by CHILDLINE Rourkela at Gurudwara Hall from June 3-5, 2011.

Children’s Parliament had a clear message: Every child has a right to live without experiencing prejudice, exclusion, and discrimination. The Children’s parliament has provided the children with an excellent platform to raise their voices, and project their concerns. After all who can understand the problems faced by the children better than themselves?, who can advocate their problems better than themselves? !! Their Own chosen representatives. "

*-Sudeesh PM is currently working as Program Assistant with CHILDLINE India Foundation.

28 Sep 2011

Every Child has a Right to Education

The Right to Free and Compulsory Act, came to effect on April 1, 2010 could alter the educational landscape. The RTE is rolling out fast in all states and will have significant impact on roles of organisations in the child space. The enforcement of this right represents a momentous step forward in our 100-year struggle for universalizing elementary education.

ducation has given many of us the opportunities to lead a better quality life and attain our goals. However, for millions of Indian children, education remains a distant dream - due to poverty, caste, gender discrimination and lack of access to schools. The quality education remains the most important tool towards the realization of rights of all children.

The elementary education in India: Where do we stand? Education in India is on the concurrent list. This means that while the Centre is responsible for providing general direction in terms of educational policy and curriculum, the running of the vast school network is the responsibility of individual state governments. Article 45 of the Indian Constitution states that, "The State shall strive to provide free and compulsory education to all citizens up to the age of 14" and the 93rd Constitutional Amendment (1994) made education a fundamental right that guarantees free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 – 14.

The elementary education is considered a basic developmental right of every child. However, the right remains largely unrealized:

  • India spends only 3.3 percent of its GDP on education, compared to an average 5.8 percent in developed countries. GOI had made a commitment to spend 6% of GDP on education in 1968, however the highest spend made so far is 4% of GDP.
  •  53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
  • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
  • 1 in 40, primary school in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
  • The common reasons given by 3 out of four drop-outs for leaving school are 
    • High cost of private education
    • Need to work to support their families
    •  No interest in studies.
  •  Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V - its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
  • The number of recognized schools imparting elementary education is over 1,285,576, of which 80% are Government run.
  • The number of children enrolled in Grades I-V in 2009 was 1,34,377,324, and in Grades V-VIII was 53,350,189.

Source: (DISE 2008-2009 Flash Statistics, National University for Education Planning and Administration [www.niepa.org])

As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), India already recognises fundamental rights of children to Survival, Development, Protection and Participation. Honouring the commitment made to the nation's children in Article 21A of the Constitution, The Right of Children to the Right of Children to Free and compulsory Education Act 2009 (Popularly referred to as RTE) has now become operational.

The Right to Education Act 2009
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), which was passed by the Indian parliament on 4 August 2009, describes the modalities of the provision of free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14 years in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution.

The Right to Education Act has been debated, discussed and deliberated by experts before it became a law. The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrollment, attendance and completion, on the Government.

The Right to Education Act 2009 ensures
  • Free, compulsory education for all children from all ages 6-14 in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education..
  • Mandated quality of education, including periodic teacher training, and quality monitoring.
  • Focus on continuous evaluation of students.
  • Local community participation in schools.
  • Government will set up or upgrade existing schools to meet quality, or it will provide for transportation and fees to nearby private schools.
  • Special provisions for disabled children, the Act guarantees all children with disabilities to the fundamental right to education.
  • The Act makes it obligatory on part of the state governments and local bodies to ensure that every child gets education in a school in the neighbourhood. Any cost that prevents a child from accessing school will be borne by the State which shall have the responsibility of enrolling the child as well as ensuring attendance and completion of 8 years of schooling.

The Right to Education (RTE) Act grants every child, between the age bracket of 6 to 14 years, the right to free and quality education. The Act also specifies minimum norms in government schools and in private schools, a reservation of 25% of seats to children from poor families (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan).

The RTE will ensure that quality education is provided to children of all community, including minorities and backward classes. However, the reservation for weaker section will not be implemented from this year as the admission season is almost over and will be implemented from 2011-12.

According to the Act, no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them at par with students of the same age.

All children between the ages of 6 and 14 shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education at a neighbourhood school. There is no direct (school fees) or indirect cost (uniforms, textbooks, mid-day meals, transportation) to be borne by the child or the parents to obtain elementary education. The government will provide schooling free-of-cost until a child's elementary education is completed.

The state government and local authorities will establish primary schools within walking distance of one km of the neighbourhood. In case of children for Class VI to VIII, the school should be within a walking distance of three km of the neighbourhood.No child shall be denied admission for want of documents; no child shall be turned away if the admission cycle in the school is over and no child shall be asked to take an admission test. Children with disabilities will also be educated in the mainstream schools.

RTE also calls for improving school infrastructure and training teachers so that every child in India has access to a quality education.

How does RTE promote Child-Friendly Schools?

All Schools must comply with infrastructure and teacher norms for an effective learning environment. Two trained teachers will be provided foe every sixty students at the primary level.
Teachers are required to attend school regularly and punctually, complete curriculum instruction, assess learning abilities and hold regular parent-teacher meetings. The number of teachers shall be based on the number of students rather than by grades.

Watchdog: Mechanism for of RTE violations

The National or the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights is responsible for examining the safeguards for rights under the act and recommending measures for effective implementation. It is also responsible for inquiring into complaints relating to child’s rights to free and compulsory education. A National Advisory Council constituted by the central government will advise the central government in effective implementation of the act. The committee will comprise a maximum of 15 members, all of whom are expected to be knowledgeable and experienced with elementary education and child development. Similarly, a state advisory council constituted by each state government will be responsible for advising the state government.

The passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 marks a historic moment for the children of India. This Act serves as a building block to ensure that every child has his or her right (as an entitlement) to get a quality elementary education, and that the State, with the help of families and communities, fulfils this obligation. It is also important to ensure the proper implementation of the Act and the implementation will directly benefit close to one crore children who do not go to schools at present. These children, who have either dropped out from schools or have never been to any educational institution, will be enrolled in schools. The reach and effect this Act on the primary education landscape could be enormous.

Read more about RTE and its implications visit: