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Child Labour in India

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written by: Jemy Mathew


Children are said to be the gift of God, sent from above to bring joy and make a better society. They are the future of our country. They are too delicate and should be moulded tenderly. Hence the childhood is too precious for every child’s growth and development. But life sometimes might be unfair. They are deprived of their childhood and forced to work hard unable to afford the basic necessities of living. The brutal reality becomes a heavy burden on the children stealing their childhood from them. This will retard the growth of not only the children but also the entire society. Child Labour not only destroys the children but also impact the mental and physical health of children which remains a lifetime trauma.

Child Labour

According to International Labour Organization (ILO), “ child labour is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful for the physical and mental health and development. It has been said that there are 15 2 million or more children working as child labour to which India contributes 7.3 % of that number which is still a tragic truth in India.[1]Children are forced to do hazardous work at a very meagre wage as slaves. Some are forced into prostitution, human trafficking, construction works, mining, etc. which is a very terrifying fact happening all around the world. States like Bihar Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra are the states identified with nearly 55% of the total child labour employer. Poverty is the main cause of child labour. Children voluntarily become child labour to support their family to meet the needs of daily life that they are unable to afford due to unemployment of the elders, illiteracy, scarcity of resources, shelter, ignorance etc. Implementing laws alone does not prevent child labour it does not improve the living condition in the perfect family from their children voluntarily becomes child labourers.

Covid-19 and child labour

According to the ILO, child labour that had been declining for the past 2 decades globally is now being threatened to reverse that trend due to the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic. This lockdown that caused India a major economic & financial crisis, closure of schools, colleges, & employment sectors has devastated and impoverished socially and economically poor family unable to survive and meet the necessary needs in the family, made students drop out from school. Since education nowadays is mostly through phone, television and other online platforms, there are still many students who don’t have access to this virtual medium. Children from poor families can’t afford a smartphone, some don’t have network coverage. It was difficult for India to keep students in school and preventing them from drop out which has got worse by the covid-19 health pandemic. The number of children dropping out of school and engage in child labour has increased and is reaching its peak. Families who are under tremendous pressure of money are forced to send their children to work even if they wish to educate their children.

Many children only have 2 meals a day. Many don’t have money to send their children back to school. Children who are above the age of 14 and below 18 are protected from hazardous works by law but are not provided with free and compulsory education.

Pandemic hinders the education of children from the tribal community and forest areas. Poor network coverage forces to travel 5 km cautious of wild animals to elevated spots in search of network connectivity. Having a different language also cause huge trouble. Many children from the tribal community having different language from that of online becomes a huge problem for the government new plan of education. They are staying at home for about 9 months with no other choice but child labour. Many NGOs and organizations are taking essential steps to prevent and rescue children from child labour and provide them education, mid-day meals, other sanitary and hygiene. The government is also taking many measures such as providing education and taking care of orphaned or children who lost their parents by covid-19 preventing them from being pushed into labour or trafficking.

We should eradicate poverty and unemployment by creating more employment opportunities in the states and increase the wage to make sure that families are stable enough to educate their children. This we can eradicate child labour.

Child Labour Prohibition and law

Child labour causes tragedy not only to the child or the family but also to the entire Nation. India is on its way to abolish Child Labour. Various laws including the Indian Penal Code such as The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulations) Act 1986, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act 2012, etc. Art 24 of the Indian constitution prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or any other hazardous works. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 has been enacted according to Art 45 of the Indian constitution to provide free and compulsory education to all children between 6 to 14 years and to empower them and equip them to be a change in society. The Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005 has been in effect to protect the basic rights of children and to prevent such horrendous behaviour and cruelty towards them.

Juvenile Justice Act 2015

Section 76 of Juvenile Justice Act punishes whoever uses children for begging or children, amputates & hurt for forcing them into begging shall suffer with rigorous imprisonment for a maximum term of 10 years and will be liable to fine of 1 to 5 lakhs. Those who use children for vending, peddling, carrying, supplying or smuggling any intoxicating liquor, narcotic drugs or psychotropic substance will be imprisoned for a term extending to 7 years and liable to a fine up to one lakh rupees under Section 78. Whoever ostensibly engages a child and keeps him in bondage for the purpose of Employment or withholds his earnings or uses such earning for his own purposes shall be punishable with Rigorous imprisonment under Section 79. They are the assets of every nation.

Case laws related to child labour

The case M C Mehta v. state of Tamil Nadu & Others (1996) [2], recognized as a landmark judgement which verifies the situation of child labour in India, reasons of child labour, etc. This case discusses about the main issues that cause labour in India. A commission was appointed to do a detailed study report on the existence of child labour where poverty, unemployment, large family, financial crisis, lack of education, illiteracy are pointed out as the main causes of child labour in India. Certain guidelines were provided by this report to prevent child labour and to educate children with the aim of empowerment.

In Bhandua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India & Others (1997), [3] Justice Bhagwati said that “It is a problem which needs the urgent attention of the Government of India and the State Governments and when the Directive Principles of State Policy have obligated the Central and State Government to take steps and adopt measures for the purpose of ensuring social justice to the have-nots and the handicapped. It is not right on the part of the concerned governments to shut their eyes to the inhuman exploitation to which the bonded labourers are subjected”.[4]

In the case, A Ashraf @ Mohammed Ashraf Ali vs State Of Karnataka held on 2015 April 10, argued that the petitioners who were the owners of the travelling bags manufacturing unit laboured children above 14 years of age and manufacturing travel or leather bags are not included in the hazardous works according to schedule 2 of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulations) Act 1986. A new definition of adolescent (between age group of 14 to 18) is intended to be included to prohibit the employment of adolescent in scheduled occupations and regular the condition of their working in other occupations was included as a major principle in the case. [5]


“Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.”

-Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International.

This quote highlights the importance and value of children in society. We have to provide them love and care. They deserve a happy childhood filled with laughter. The Government of India has taken many measures, established various laws for the prohibition of child labour. But child labour still prevails in many parts of India. It is because of the flaws in the implementation of the law. Many NGOs are working hard for the abolishment of child labour.

According to data from Census 2011, the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls. A total of 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys – are estimated to be in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in ten of all children worldwide.[6]

It is high time to bring a change in this matter. Let’s bring a change in this world by being a change.


1) International Labour Organization,

2) AIR 1997 SC 699, (1996) SCC 756

3) AIR 1984 SCC 802

4) Indiankanoon,

5) CRL.P 1022/2015, 10 April 2015

6) UNICEF India, Child Labour and Exploitation,

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Antony Thomas
Antony Thomas
Jun 08, 2021

Well said Jemy and congrats


Glito Davis
Glito Davis
Jun 07, 2021

Great Work Jemy👏💫.....

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