June 12 is World Day Against Child Labour and this year the theme by International Labour Organisations is ‘Act now: end child labour’. World Day Against Child Labour was launched in 2002 to create awareness and action plans to prevent child labour. The good news is that child labour has decreased by 38% in the last decade. But, 152 million children are still in child labour globally.

For all of us, it is not uncommon to see children selling newspapers in the railway stations or streets, snacks at the beaches and parks and washing dishes at a food joint or restaurant. It never was. We don’t find it unusual, don’t we? Or we just pretend to ignore that it is?
Don’t you think that these little souls deserve a normal life like us, our children? Good nutrition, education, care and good clothes.

As it happens, child labour affects these children mentally, physically, socially, and morally. And it makes them exposed to hazards, illnesses, slavery, and abuse. If you had ever empathized while seeing one of them you would understand what I am feeling while talking on this subject.

A couple of months back, a boy around 8 years approached me late at night in the streets. He was selling pocket tissues. I asked him why you haven’t gone home, isn’t it  too late.
He told me “kuch bika nai hai”, which means nothing has been sold.
His gloomy face gave me some sort of unknown feeling that I can’t explain. I asked him who all are there in his family. He had a bedridden mother and a small sister at home. The boy lost his father last year to COVID-19. The family was completely dependent on him. After recovering from the shock I considered informing the child helpline but later when I thought about what would happen to his family after that, I chose to pay him some extra money and walked off numb.

As per the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, amended in 2016 (“CLPR Act”), a “Child” is defined as any person below the age of 14, and the CLPR Act prohibits employment of a Child in any employment including as a domestic help except helping own family in non-hazardous occupations.

What Can We Do?
Parental and community awareness is the key to preventing child labour. People should understand how child labour can affect their child’s growth and development. More strict laws and effective implementation are required to end child labour. And people should be discouraged from employing children in their companies, restaurants etc.
Let us do our part by educating the people around us and discouraging such employers. If you find any child in distress, talk to the parent or employer. And If you come across any children being laboured in unacceptable circumstances, contact the child helpline (1098) immediately. You may be able to save one life.

In the present scenario of the pandemic, many children have lost their parents like the boy I met recently. The earning member of the family succumbed to the deadly virus and sometimes the non earning parent also dead, the children are orphaned and forced to go out in the streets to find a way to survive. Either engage in manual labour or resort to begging.
These children are living in extreme fear and distress and it is important to support and protect them. These children are more vulnerable now than ever before.

Savethechidren‘, an NGO, apart from their works to end child labour has also come forward to support the children who lost their dear ones to COVID-19. Their mission #ProtectAMillion will reach children and their families affected by COVID-19. Let us support this big mission by making our contribution here. As they say, children should fill their mind instead of filling their pockets. Let us stand together for the future of tomorrow.


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