So Swaram posted on how her gas agency was employing children, I have always been a bit hesitant when it comes to opposing the child employment (note the use of word employment instead of labor). I have been a little apprehensive of condemning this practice specially in the Indian context. Here are the reasons behind my belief-
1- Lack of Social Security- In a country like India where social security mechanism are absolute zero, where a person if hungry might as well die of it without the government even batting an eyelid. In a country like ours, where if you are out of employment or a regular income there would absolutely be no support from the system. What should a child do? Do we have a system where a poor family if nothing else then is at least provided three square meals a day without being harassed? I know a lot of government scheme would be here, but practically we all know the schemes remain on paper.
2- Lack of Alternatives- So if a child from a poor background doesn’t work, what does he do? The education infrastructure for the needy in India is again in a poor state, the classes seldom happen. Facilities for the most part are absent, and there is a lack of direction on what they are producing. I believe that the basic schooling system in India is fabulous when it comes to educating a person for further studies (what primarily middle class does), but it lacks big time in making a child independent and employable. I mean when one passes out of class X or XII and if one wanted to work, there are hardly any opportunities or skills till then. Given the fact there are families to be looked after in the houses and earning hands fewer. I believe this is one thing which needs to be corrected. The answer to the question “School jaa kar kya karegi” should be more than “College main padhegi”. The
children people of India deserve it.
3- Better Choice- given the above two I feel that a child who started working early has made a better, moral and a worthy choice. If one doesn’t has anything to eat what are his alternatives, beg or steal. I find the children far more respectable and better human beings who choose the better option of hard work to achieve something, if nothing else at least an honorable survival. Every time I see a child on the traffic signal begging, I find a growing respect for the children who chose a better path to work. Given the fact that our government can anyways hardly do anything about both of them (except leaving the second child jobless accd to the child labor law)
4- Importance of Work- Somehow I appreciate the American or the so called western culture, where the children from almost all strata of society actually do odd jobs like cleaning the pathway of snow, cleaning the car, mowing the lawn, helping with grocery shopping and get tips for the work they do. I believe firmly that this develops two important qualities, a good work ethic in terms of all kind of work is good and secondly importance of money. I believe that in India the typical caste based culture still exist at large, where people consider some work to be as lowly and would not like them or their children doing it. Though this is very distantly connected to child labor or can be called child employment but I think that this kind of environment where children working should not be treated with pity but with respect for their spirit and hard work is really necessary for Indian mindset.
5- Failure of Law against Child Labor- The complete ban of children under 14 years of age would be a complete failure until the points 1 & 2 are addressed which are far from being met. Secondly it also makes an activity employing a child as illegal, which allows the employer not declare the child worker and also to cut corners and often the child worker doesn’t even get what he deserves for the work he has done. Also he missed out of what might be a structured and a long term employment benefits which might be available to other workers in the same organization
All said and done I do know that there are people who exploit children, and they might get into things which might be hazardous and have long term negative effects but then I also believe that the government can’t just create a law and then don’t provide them an
easier approachable alternative. If they really want the law to be followed with the spirit then they should cancel the agency which employed the boy which had a gas connection, and identify why the boy was willing to pick those heavy cylinder instead of going to school and address the root, case by case basis. If they can’t address both the sides then may be they should leave the free markets to balance it out.