The first Labour Day was celebrated on the 5 September, 1882, in the New York City, USA. The Labour Movement in the United States encouraged labourers across the world to organise movements, to form pressure groups and labour unions. In the honour of the millions of labourers who toil hard round the clock, each day, to make life better for other citizens, India celebrates this cause on the 1May every year.
With this inspiring side of labour, however, comes also the gruesome reality of child labour. This practice of forcing children below 14 to engage themselves in income-generating activities, started back in the 17th century, and still remains a deadly part of what constitutes our ‘modern’ society. That they were not correctly educated, not conscious of their basic, human, lawful rights, were facts that made it easy for the inhuman manufacturers to exploit these little minds. But the injustice meted out to these children did not end there: the primary reason for their underage employment was their availability at cheap rates. This vile inequality on the children continued for several long decades until it came to be adjudged unacceptable both morally and legally. In 1924, the Geneva Declaration of the Right of Children Act came into existence, followed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Today, India has the highest rates of child labour in the world, contributes to one-third of the labour requirements of Asia. This stands as the ground where the act of deadening innocent children is practised every day, increasingly, illegally, more than anywhere else on the globe. However, today fighting the wrongs of our country has become easier than ever before.
The declaration by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in 2013, that a total ban should be levied on employment of children below the age of 14 – whether in hazardous or non-hazardous industries – was perhaps the most significant of all steps taken in this war against Child Labour. Until and unless the people themselves understand the pressing importance of this issue and the right of children, of everybody, to education and healthy growth conditions, Child Labour can never entirely be eradicated from our country.
Coordinator, Class XI, Gokhale Memorial Girls School.