All parents want to protect their children. They have different ideas but many do not have the privilege to shield their children from things like poverty and health issues. Sometimes, the terror isn’t a person – it is lack of basic necessities like food, drinking water, adequate healthcare, education, shelter and security that lead to parents sending their children to work in the hopes that anywhere is better than home.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, we must understand what a ‘child’ means in legal terms. According to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 – a child means a person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age. Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a child is defined as a person under the age of 18 years.
As per the 2011 census report, the number of working children in the age group of 5-14 years in Sikkim was 2,704. Although, significantly lesser than the 2001 report which was 16,457. Our state is still plagued by people who thwart these Acts and employ children in organizations or households. Affluent families often employ young children as domestic helpers and the tradition of children looking after other children who are similar in age is something to be ashamed of.
The following Acts are a few that have been implemented to stop organizations and individuals from exploiting children:
• The Factories Act of 1948
• The Mines Act of 1952
• The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986
• The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000
• The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 and more.
Yet, there has been no significant progress made in eradicating child labour from the state.
One of the biggest reasons for child labour is when poverty pushes families to send their children into these jobs. In some cases, it has been found the child, she/he wants to go back to the employer because some do not even get proper meals at home. Plus, some employers send the children to school too, so the children prefer to stay in the care of their employers.
In a recent meeting at Delhi, it was decided that Sikkim would have a Child Labour Rehabilitation Welfare Fund (CLRWF), and the state Labour Department has to commence the process.
One of the important provisions under the CLPR Act is that the Labour Department would deposit 15,000 monthly in the rehabilitated child’s bank account (to be set up by the said department themselves), along with an unspecified amount by whoever brings the child to the CLRWF.
It is clear that laws need to be enforced better, people should become more aware of child labour laws in Sikkim because profiting off of these children deprives them of education and infringes on many of their fundamental rights. Also, some unfortunate incidents like emotional, physical and sexual assault by the employers or people around them would traumatise these children beyond repair.
If we wouldn’t allow our own children to be subjected to these unfair conditions and systems, why would we allow another’s?