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Poverty, child labor and endless struggle

Jobs pick up in Asia, but things are still tough: ILO

Bhagyashri Boywad | The Nanded district in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra is one of the most parched areas of the state. With agriculture being the main means of livelihood, and many people being daily wage laborers, unavailability of water has forced most workers to migrate to big cities. They work in brick kilns and move with their families to break sugarcane. Some work in factories in Mumbai and Pune. Women find employment as domestic help, and some men work together as aids and salespeople in clothing stores. The people working in these shops are mostly Dalits who live in nearby areas, usually in ghettos.

The migrated families face newer challenges here. The everyday struggle to make ends meet impacts the lives of children in different ways. The 15-year-old Seema and her family moved to Vithhal Nagar in Nanded city from Daregaon. Due to poverty, her parents could not afford good educational facilities. She was subjected to the fun by her peers while being scared of subjects like Mathematics and English. The constant humiliation forced her to leave the school.

The main reasons for school dropouts are lack of educational facilities, schools’ lack of connection with the backward class students in syllabus and teaching methodology, low family literacy, and lack of implementation of the Right to Education policy. It is clearly visible in NFHS 2021 that 79 percent of children drop out of school between the age group of 15–17 years.

In government schools, the pedagogy of teaching is delicate. The teachers could not give proper attention to the students and the biggest reason behind it is the poor student-teacher ratio. Based on the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE Plus), 2018-19 Maharashtra, there are 4928 government schools that are violating the ideal PTR (pupil-teacher ratio), which is 16.30 percent, and 3177 government schools have only one teacher.

Poverty is an essential factor behind child labor. Most of the children from marginalized communities are child laborers. The plight of Dalit and Adivasi children is linked to caste-based discrimination and their social and economic exclusion. A resident of Balaji Nagar, 15-year-old Komal, started working in shops as a helper after moving from the Hingoli district. A single mother raised Komal and her two siblings. Her family is impoverished. “My mother could not afford basic things. I realized if I needed to sustain the family, I had to work,” shared Komal. The lack of legal support and the scarcity of losing a job make shopkeepers powerful at this moment, and they use their power on vulnerable workers, mostly women, and girls.

In families belonging to low socio-economic backgrounds, children face emotional, financial, physical, and mental abuse in their homes. The 17-year-old Rajani from underdeveloped region of Khobragade Nagar shared how her father’s abusive behaviour pushed her to become a child labourer. An alcoholic and unemployed, her father shouts, assaults them physically and creates scenes in the public domain. Her mother who works as a domestic worker has the whole onus of meeting the family needs on her. Despite working every day for over 12 hours, she could hardly make their ends meet.

Seeing her mother struggle, Rajani started working. Not only does she help her mother in the household chores but takes care of her siblings’ education too. Children involved in labour –selling flowers on the road, cleaning car windows, working as domestic helps, besides working at construction sites, chaat shops, and hotels — are compelled due to the pressing need to earn and feed themselves.

This article earlier published in Daily Pioneer is written as a part of the WNCB Awards for Untold Stories on child labour.

Bhagyashri Boywad is a winner of the WNCB Awards for Untold Stories on child labour. Share your feedback on  Charkha Features

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