Knock on the Head · Reflection

What are we doing about Child Labour: Slamming Our Slumdogs?


Sometime or the other, we all have been culprits, having made use of the services of a child for work. Remember the days your maid couldn’t come home to work and sent her 12/14 year old daughter instead? What did you do? Did you send her back? Seven out of ten, you would have allowed her to work. After all, the sink was filled with dirty dishes, the house was dusty and guests were expected that evening!

What harm would one day of work do? You may have asked yourself and that was it.

Some time back, a TV actor was charged for ill treating her 10 year old maid. It was bad enough that she had employed a little girl to work for her at home. That she abused her physically and insensitively was what made the whole issue dreadful and intolerable. Elsewhere, one time actress, singer and ex wife of director Shekhar Kapur, Suchitra Krishnamurthy was accused of employing a girl to work in her house. It’s not that only celebrities are doing what they are best at – violating rules. We too, the common people are guilty of not discouraging child labour. Every time we watch boys wipe our tables in small time hotels or we purchase products knowing fully well that they have been made with the nimble hands of a child, we are indirectly promoting child labour. Carpet looms, firecracker factories, embroidery units and glass factories are only some of the other examples of child labour. In a country where child labour is prohibited, we still continue to have about 60 million child labourers with only some thousands being detected by the law. What a sham!

The Maharashtra government had some time back sent a show cause notice to the producers of serials that hired child artistes. But tell me, how effective has this notice turned out to be? Maybe, a few serials like ‘Balika Badhu’ and ‘Chhota Packet Bada Dhamaka’ kind of programmes will we stopped from being telecast but, will it serve any solid purpose? Highly ambitious parents continue to make their children act in serials to get celebrity status and also bring home some fat cash! Do the children enjoy working? Not all children do. Other children who work in less comfortable conditions like in factories have to slog for hours without rest. They can be rescued but unless the children are rehabilitated elsewhere, they are bound to go back to working again. After all, they need to survive and feed their families and themselves.

The problem lies in the inefficient implementation of the Child Labour Act keeping in mind the socio-economic setup of these little children. Their health and education requirements need to be considered too. Most importantly, the issues of poverty, migration and lack of an efficient education policy must be worked out. We still have child prostitutes who start out as early as the age of 5. They are pushed into a world they know nothing about and are exploited terribly. Just imagine! A five year old child made to work it out for money with strangers old enough to be her father or grandfather. Sickening isn’t it? What about their dreams to study, to live a life away from physical and mental abuse?


NGOs are trying their best to rescue child labourers. There have been many instances when children have been rescued and also rehabilitated. But, until the government and the rest of the fortunate public (like us) change our mindset and take an initiative to do something, however little, in tiny ways, millions of child labourers will continue to lead lives bereft of self respect, something which every human being including children deserve to possess.


9 thoughts on “What are we doing about Child Labour: Slamming Our Slumdogs?

  1. What coincidence I just wrote something on the same lines – but more from a fictional story standpoint.

    Such a vicious cycle of repression ,exploitation and exoneration isnt it? NGO’s do their bit, corporate do their bit and it all adds up to this cycle.

    1. Hi Gyan, Yeah. All that we do is watch in despair and promise ourselves that we will not be party to all this exploitation. But, how many of us stick to this promise! Will read your point of view Gyan. And let you know. Thanks.

  2. Very sad, Shail. But there needs to be something done about it. The minute I see young maids being employed in houses, I am wary of what the men of the house would want for. I’ve been an eye witness to harassment by a ‘Educated man’ done to a young, docile maid. Horrid really.
    Also, problem is when the children themselves are dropouts or do not want to study (as opposed to those who had to discontinue studying due to lack of funds)

    1. Hi Sneha, Exploitation of children is there irrespective of gender, status, age. It is a real pity that we humans, both, male and female can even think of taking advantage of vulnerable children. Kalyug, what else. At least, we must stay true to our conscience. What do you say?

  3. It is really strange to see many highly educated ppl illtreat small girls who work as house maids. I have a neighbour who keeps shouting or thrashing a girl who works as a house maid. Once we indirectly helped that girl to ran away from that house. But just after a week, we saw another new girl in the house and story continues…

    Only better educational opportunities and financial support will help to change the scene.

    1. I agree entirely with you Hari. Education seems to have made many people more illiterate in terms of advancement of the mind and heart. No wonder, we have foreignors making movies like the Slumdog and people enjoying it, cashing in on human poverty and vulnerability. A real pity but a harsh reality.

  4. @Sneha

    Also, problem is when the children themselves are dropouts or do not want to study (as opposed to those who had to discontinue studying due to lack of funds)

    That is too insensitive. Why do kids drop out of school???
    Here is an part answer from my comment on IHM.

    …If a mother is a domestic help her employer will not like her to bring her kids to work so who will mind them may be her minor daughter who is little older than her siblings. She’ll do the chores and may be go to the anaganwadi or even the afternoon school. where she’ll fall asleep because she is tired and has had not enough sleep and the teacher will say she is good for nothing. She’ll flunk and the school will chuck her out. (or else due to repeated scolding from the teacher she’ll try to skip school and finally give up). Here goes her chances of bright future an education will bring now she is all good to fill her mother’s shoes as a domestic help when she retires. Think, will this ever happen to your daughter? will you let this happen to her??

    I gave up wearingglass bangles that I like a lot because child laborers make them. At the time my friend’s seven year old son gave up fire crackers because he saw on DD children made those crakers and suffered health consequnces. And then there are God forsaken people like my ex MIL who thought her joy and wealth could only be displayed through fire crackers.

    The issue of child labor in third world countries is very complex. For some if they don’t earn they don’t eat. During the Rajasthan draught in the akal rahat yojana families were given work of digging the earth and it is measured in sq feet. It is usually women at work becuase men have migrated to urban centers to find work. A woman working under this scheme gets paid if she digs out the given area. If she finds it hard to do on her own her children come forward to help her then the problem arises that Akal Rahat Yojana employed child labor.

    I do not know what is the answer. Every child deserves love, care, rest and opportunities to excel. May be improved conditions of work, regulated hours of work, opportunities of education and recreation. And vigilant citizens who’ll report child abuse. then there will be this problem of police men finding another venue of taking bribes.


    Desi Girl

  5. So, nice of you Desi Girl to give a detailed and serious comment for a an equally serious issue that just doesn’t seem to get solved. I agree with your last para because no work means no food for innumerable children all over. So, better working conditions should be there till alternative arrangements for not working can be made. And God only knows when this will happen.

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