Social Issues

Does child labor still happen in India? What are the measures taken against it?

2011 census showed that a whopping 10.13 million children work as laborers in India. So, Child labor is not just prevalent but also a booming problem for the country. Child Labor is present in wide-ranging industries like, Diamond Industry, Fireworks, Mining, Shops and Establishments, Domestic Labor and even life threatening sectors.

 

These unjust activities inflicted by the affluent snatch away poor children’s innocence and force them to work at a tender age. To curb this social evil, the government has taken numerous steps and laid down varied laws. The fight against child labor began long ago, with the Child Labor (Prohibition and Abolition) Act, 1986. The road has never been easy or simple. There have been continuous improvements and amendments to the Act. The most significant step taken in this regard is the declaration of child labor as criminal offense attracting a rigorous punishment of 3 years imprisonment or Rs. 50,000/- fine. This stringent rule has helped keep a good check on the malpractice.

 

To make any policy a success, it is general public’s role to support it. We should make concerted efforts to Eliminate Child Labor. We should never hire children below the age of 14 years. There are various NGOs like Action Aid India which support the righteous cause. We should support these noble organizations and help them counsel children below the age of 14 who are working and encourage them to join schools. We can rehabilitate rescued child labor, fund their studies, provide them knowledge and education etc. We should all join hands and pledge to make India a better place for everyone.

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How ActionAid supports causes in India?

ActionAid envisages a world without: Poverty, Patriarchy and Injustice; a world where everyone enjoys the right to life with dignity.

ActionAid is present in 25 states and associated with 83 long term projects (1-10 years) and 420 short term projects (up to 1 year). They have collaborated with many organizations and civil society groups and work on issues pertaining to women safety, women empowerment, human rights and livelihood rights.

Women Empowerment + Safety

Problem: The average Indian household is deeply entrenched in ideas of staunch patriarchy. Atop this patriarchy are the problems of women’s safety and violence towards women.

AA provides employment opportunities and promote women’s rights and dignity. They ensure political, economic and social independence to women. The interventions of AA encompasses women’s work, gender division of labour, wages and unpaid work. To enhance women’s rights, AA’s interventions also encompasses training boys and men along with girls and women on sexual health and reproductive health issues. AA with its campaigns and interventions aim at women empowerment and women safety across the country.

Recent achievements of ActionAid:

  1. One stop crisis centres – being set up with support of State govt. (MP done, UP upcoming)
  2. Promotion of women’s collectives – more than 30,000 women are part of it
  3. 9,000 women were rendered soft skill trainings including weaving, craft making, driving and zardozi work; educational programmes with partner organisation
  4. Special support provided to 700 women survivors of violence
  5. Training on sexual health rights provided to 11,000 girls.

Livelihood rights And Support for Agriculture

Problem: Unjust land distribution, consequences of indiscriminate land acquisition for infrastructure, social exclusion of groups and caste in land ownership, lack of systems for farmer support – eg. Institutional credit, comprehensive risk coverage to offset increasing input costs and support price, short sighted overuse and industrial agro.

AA seeks to build a stress free and ecologically sound and sustainable process in the farming industry. It preserves natural resources and promotes agriculture that has low impact on ecological commons. It supports movements demanding land rights for the tiller, especially with excluded groups. It has also built seed banks and ensure access to every farmer.

The major part of the country’s GDP is contributed by the agriculture sector. To foster the economic growth, ActionAid has launched various campaigns ensuring better working conditions and livelihood rights to farmers, and restoring a progressive land reforms agenda to the corridors of policy making.

Recent achievements of ActionAid:

  1. Facilitated land titles to tiller (50,000 successes, 2 lakh applications filed)
  2. Procured access to social security schemes for informal sector labourers (58,000 cases)
  3. Created sustainable solutions for farmers and promoted appropriate tech
  4. Organised collectives for farmers

Women Entrepreneurs

Problem: Lack of education, patriarchal society, family ties and problem of finance. In India, being a woman entrepreneur comes with a long list of challenges.

AA aims at spreading awareness about women’s rights through collective enterprises. It impart several trainings on enhancing leadership qualities to ensure women empowerment. The trainings also focus on building technical skills of the woman entrepreneur.

Finance is the blood of any organization. A woman entrepreneur faces a lot of challenges to initiate a business due to lack of finances. AA ensures micro grants in the form of solar lights, pumps, nets, opening stock etc. to initiate operations of collective enterprises. It also ensures that a woman entrepreneur is not deprived of her livelihood rights.

The work of a woman remains undervalued during her entire life. AA ensures acknowledgement of a woman’s work both as an income producer of the family and the voluntary care work done by her. Various training programs are held both for men and women to sensitize them about the voluntary work done by a woman.

The success mantra of an enterprise is the network chain built by an entrepreneur. AA plans out various network building activities with various stakeholders including government authorities at the local, district and state level.

Child’s right to Childhood

Problem: A poor country like of ours is entrenched with child labour. Childhood is the basic right of any child across the globe and majority of the children living in shanty towns are deprived of this basic right.

AA aims to eradicate child labour from the country by educating, providing access to a protected environment and feeding every child in the country. To improve the overall situation, AA participated in a nation-wide study on the status of Right to Education Act by covering 1,100 schools.

AA is taking initiatives to improve the conditions of street children. It ensures that every child in the country is enrolled in a school under Right to Education Act. And, not just enrolment but it also look after the quality of education being imparted in schools. AA also facilitates scholarships for higher education to children so that due to lack of finance, brighter kids are not deprived of higher education.

Recent achievements of ActionAid:

  1. Enrolled 30,000 children into schools and 40% of them being girls.
  2. 1,706 cases of malnutrition addressed.
  3. Rescued 1,467 children from child labour and enrolled into schools.
  4. Rendered scholarships to 7,176 children from marginalised background, 35% of them being from Muslim communities.
  5. Supervised 1,500 schools pertaining to basic amenities and quality of education.
  6. 350 Anganwadi centres started functioning effectively because of the successful campaigns.
  7. Appointed 132 dalit women cooks in schools in the state of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Telegana and Uttar Pradesh.

ActionAid is doing its bit by driving campaigns to ensure women empowerment, women safety, access to human rights and livelihood rights etc. Join the movement and be a part of the change and contribute towards a better society. A society free from poverty, patriarchy and injustice. A society free from all taboos and stereotypes. A society where everyone enjoys right to life with dignity.

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How to take social action on Literacy and Health?

Literacy and healthcare in India are in rampant shambles – this much is not up for debate today. At multiple levels of the democratic government, there is a severe dilution in attempts to tackle these critical issues, as a consequence of a culture of woefully narrow-minded thinking and reckless voting. In a large number of states, elections are swung more by promises of freebies, and hardened division lines over religion and/or caste – which are reflected in the ruling parties not deeming it a priority to work on grass-root level education and healthcare. And we are only speaking of the quantity here – numbers of literate people, mortality rates, etc. Quality is another discussion altogether, vital – but a bridge we have probably not reached yet.

The Indian government estimates that 22% of its population falls below the poverty line – Rs. 27,000 per annum (which translates to a ridiculous Rs. 75 per day). The demographic breakup of this 22% is primarily constituted by rural landless labourers, urban citizens operating in informal sector labour and the destitute unemployed. Rest assured that if you cannot cobble together Rs. 75 a day, you cannot possibly afford as much as paracetamol, never mind private sector hospitals. You also cannot afford to pay to educate your children, ensuring in effect that they do not receive the kind of employment that vaults them over the BPL.

Now public education, public healthcare – these issues only affect someone who cannot afford private sector remedies for the same, yes? Why must the millennial child born to a family that owns two cars and an apartment bother at all? Why the white collared gent in his air must conditioned office care? The truth is, maintenance of this status quo is a direct contribution to the woeful narrow-mindedness and reckless voting that has made Indian governments so reluctant to genuinely legislate to serve their people. And that is only if you choose to ignore the real people, flesh and blood who are condemned to live through absolutely squalid poverty with bottomless pits of loans and poor health while encased from above by glass ceilings.

What can be done to buck these trends? As a responsible citizen, what avenue of response offers some solution to these problems? Activism in India is a remarkably difficult field to venture into, and requires long hours and endless patience to produce results. And while it is undoubtedly crucial, it is not readily accessible to the average middle class Indian juggling a job/education and family. In response to this – a large number of organisations have mushroomed, to offer the concerned citizen a platform to serve society without having to work full time to create that change. These organizations encompass right to education as their primary working arena.

By educating a child we contribute towards the economic growth of the country. Increase in literacy is directly proportionate to better health and better health contributes to higher GDP by reducing sick leaves, ensuring healthy working environment etc. Under Right to Education Act, by imparting education to every child, we increase informative attitude and make people more aware of themselves. Thus, investment in literacy would by default augment health conditions.

Education plays a substantial role in every sphere of life. Right to Education is a great initiative by the government to augment literacy rate and eradicate child labour from the country. Thus, the vision and mission of the organizations thrived to bring a change in the society encompasses of educating children.

The fundamental equation in this kind of operation is beautifully simplistic. A large amount of man-force is required as a primary resource in tackling these problems. However, this cannot be tackled like a corporate would approach it. For one, capital is sparse – full time employees are hard to afford. These organisations appeal to citizens to volunteer their time, and accumulate man-force through sheer numbers, without having to spend to achieve this. As a result, these organisations cut costs at unprecedented levels and deliver solutions at a fraction of the rate that it would take a corporate or a governmental organisation.

Certain other organisations that exist in this very sector consciously follow a different model. In order to engage far more rigorously with the problems at hand, they choose to provide salaried positions – and demand the commitment of a full time employee. These too are Not for Profit, they are dependent on fundraising to survive and function. By providing a salaried position however, they provide people an opportunity to dedicate their professional lives to some improving ground realities in this country. The fact that this provides a meaningful work and a stable job makes this a very lucrative chance for people genuinely interested in making a difference.

Besides this, there are a group of organisations that work in the field of providing platforms to those who choose to tackle problems related to social justice, by providing the kind of financial and logistical support that is often hard to muster for someone starting out in the sector. By incubating these new initiatives and helping them streamline their processes using experience in the field, these organisations make available the know-how required to successfully approach an issue for someone who just has a basic idea in mind.

Overall, there are a number of choices available to the citizen who wants to help his community, especially in fields as primary as education and healthcare. By providing one’s own time – we also make a crucial statement, that this problem demands our attention, and our presence. Kids out there in shelter homes and on streets don’t need our sympathies and materialistic donations. All they need is our personal attention, mentoring, emotional support and above all education. A little time invested in a child can make a huge difference. So, next time make a wise choice between materialistic donations or few hours of productivity?