“Child Labour-A Social Disease”, Hethono Sumi, Class 12 Arts.

In last week’s column, we talked about the true meaning of “Strive for Excellence” i.e. to never stop learning. Unfortunately, the day after teacher’s day, local dailies carried news about uniformed students playing truant caught red handed by a local student body. What is disturbing is that while one group of students is throwing away their opportunity to learn, there are some children who never get the same opportunity. This week we take a look at Child labour through the eyes of a Higher Secondary student, someone who is probably just as old as those caught playing truant on Teacher’s day. It was also the prize winning essay in the Tetso College Higher Secondary level essay competition.
“Child Labour-A Social Disease”

One of the best things that can happen to a person in his life is to have a happy childhood. Childhood is the first stage after infancy. It is the most formative period of a man’s life. A period where the child should be going to school and playing, developing oneself spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. But this law of nature is not brought to fruition as the world of today is filled with millions of child labourers.

Child labour is the employment of children below a certain age, which is considered illegal by law and custom, for domestic work, factory work, agriculture, mining or the likes that deprives them of the pleasures of childhood and distorts promising lives. Child labour is a disease that is mentally, physically and morally dangerous.

Child labour appeared by the end of the 18th century and is still prevalent in our present society. About 38% of today’s working population are children, 55% of these are between 5-14 years old. Children start working at a very tender age due to reasons like poverty, lack of proper education, overpopulation, unemployment, governmental failure, growth of informal economies, high educational and living cost.

Use of children for military purposes and prostitution are the most condemned forms of child labour. It is a pain to see millions of children who carry guns and bombs instead of toys. The very delight of being a child is altered by the people who should be protecting them. Occurrence of such incidents can often be seen in underdeveloped countries.

Prostitution is another great challenge every country faces. More than 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. India is one of the countries with the highest number of prostitutes. More than 30% of India’s sex workers comprise of children. This often happens with ignorant parents and children being lured with promises of jobs and services.

Poverty is also another important cause for this social disease. Poor families put their children to work in order to improve the family’s economic status. They do not give much importance to education and refrain their children from attending schools. Millions of hidden talents go wasted when these children’s urge to go to school is dismissed by their parents.

One should not be surprised when one gets to learn the fact that Nagaland alone holds more than 9000 child labourers. Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland, has around 3500 children who are engaged in commercial sectors. Poor family’s make their children work hoping the employers will feed and send their children to schools. But the sad fact is that most of them are not sent to school. They are often ill-treated and abused by the employers.

In a society where many households may have to suffer the pangs of hunger if the children stop working, beggars cannot be choosers. These families have to send their children to work, even if the future of these innocents are ruined, as that is the only choice open to them to survive in this world. Elimination of child labour will be a distant dream as long as the socio-economic status of poor families is not improved.

India is doing its best to tackle child labour. Article 24, 39 and 45 from the constitution of India states that no child below the age of 14 shall be employed, children are to be protected against exploitation and the state shall endeavour to provide free and compulsory education for all children till the age of 14 years. The citizens on the other hand, should give certain monetary or, if need be non-monetary incentives to the families that live ‘Below Poverty Line’ (BPL) to avoid child labour so that their children can be sent to school. We should take part in eliminating inequities, including class and caste barriers to all aspects of opportunities.

Child labour is a disease that should be eradicated, leaving no trace behind for future generations. It requires cumulative efforts to wipe it off. The future of the world depends on children since the children of today are the citizens of tomorrow. A child is the father of man. Feeding a child, sending him to school, and having him experience a normal childhood might seem to be such a small thing, a trifle challenge, but it works miracles.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts sponsored by the Council of Rengma Baptist Churches” For Feedback or comments, please email: admin@tetsocollege.org

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