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India’s abysmal record of confronting its illegal ‘child labour industry’ has afflicted the lives of millions of children.

India has an infamous distinction of being home to the largest population of child workers in the world, with an estimated 60 million to 115 million minors forgoing education to earn money.  A recent article by The Times provides some numbers and indicates how the country has been scornful of the ‘Child Labour Prevention Act’. The numbers are from official records obtained by The Times under India’s Right to Information (RTI) laws.

The Labour Ministry figures show that in Delhi, where hundreds of under-age workers are rescued every year — while thousands more go undetected — there was no record of any official investigation into child labour being carried out by the authorities. There were no records of any prosecutions. Similarly, in the state of Goa, with its range of beach resorts that are favoured by British holidaymakers, there was not a single investigation into child labour.

In Maharashtra, just two official inspections for child labour were carried out in 19 months, despite Mumbai, the state’s largest city, being known to be a hotbed of sweatshops that rely on under-age labour.

This is the case despite the ‘Child Labour Law’ passed in 1986 that bans employment of children under the age of 14 in industries. The law carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a Rs.20000 fine.

Only five of India’s twenty-eight states and seven union territories have set up state-level commissions to protect child rights, despite them all being called upon to do so.

Agencies such as the ‘National Commission for Child Rights’ responsible for protecting India’s 420 million children is understaffed and under funded.

Bhuwan Ribhu, of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the child labour activist group said: “This indicates a serious lack of political will and lack of preparedness on the part of government to implement the law.”

When I read this article, it occurred to me that to some extent all of us are responsible.  I totally agree that laws are not enforced. What is even more dreadful is the public indifference toward the child labour issue. As an example, many ‘educated’ and ‘ignorant’ people still employ young girls as maids. That is inexcusable. Read the entire article here.

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