Ground Report | SRINAGAR Child Labour In Kashmir; Hundreds of children are forced into unpaid or paid work that deprives them of aEducationaln education, a happy childhood and a prosperous future. Learn about the child labour situation in Kashmir and what more needs to be done.
While child labour around the world has declined by more than a third in the last 25 years, it remains a serious challenge and barrier to the well-being of children.
According to a 2018 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of child labourers around the world fell from 246 million in 2000 to around 152 million in 2016. However, millions of children continue to be exploited for cheap labour, especially in countries such as India.
Child Labour In Kashmir
Fourteen-year-old Danish Hilal works as a domestic helper in the house of a Srinagar-based government employee in Kashmir area of Jawahar Nagar. His younger sister embroiders shawls in an unregistered textile venture in her native village of South Kashmir.
Danish while speaking to ground report about his situation he said “when my father first brought me here, my employer promised to send me to school but till date I don’t know when will the day come and I will go to school”.
According to the ILO, there are around 12.9 million Indian children engaged in work between the ages of 7 to 17 years old. When children are employed or doing unpaid work, they are less likely to attend school or attend only intermittingly, trapping them in the cycle of poverty. Millions of Indian girls and boys are going to work every day in quarries and factories, or selling cigarettes on the street.
The majority of these children are between 12 and 17 years old and work up to 16 hours a day to help their families make ends meet. But child labour in India can start even earlier with an estimated 10.1 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 years-old engaged in work.
The 2011 census counted 250103 child labourers in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
If the study on “JK’s army of orphans engaged in menial jobs” is to be taken authentic then 43% of the child population of 26,53,422 i.e., 11,40,971 children are working in J&K which is far away from census figure of 1,75,630. The nowhere children in J&K according to latter study are 60,151 which widely varies from census inferences.
Majority of child workers in Kashmir valley are confined to handicrafts sector, the reason being that the work centers are spread over the entire geographical area of the valley despite its difficult terrain and topography and are easily accessible to the workers.
The work centers are private and government owned. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir, in order to broad-base its handicrafts production and to preserve its cultural heritage, launched a massive handicrafts training programme a few decades ago throughout the State under the auspices of Department of Handicrafts and at present 553 training centers are operating in different areas where the aspirants are trained in different handicraft skills.
Educational Scenario in Kashmir
A study conducted by the Central Asian studies department at the University of Kashmir found that huge numbers of working children are uneducated or undereducated, a fact that constitutes a grave violation of human rights.
Once they start working, 80 percent of child labourers stop attending school altogether.
Given that 9.2 percent of child labourers are between five and 10 years old, while 90 percent of them are between 11 and 14 years old, these trends foretell a grim picture of an entire generation of impoverished and uneducated youth.
ALSO READ: These are the 10 richest states in India
Among all the three regions of J&K State, Kashmir valley is the lowest in terms of literacy rate of both rural and urban population. The average literacy rate of various districts in Jammu region, Ladakh region and Kashmir region is 54.93,46.17,40.28 per cent respectively in respect of rural population while as the same in respect of urban population is 85.02,81.43 and 61.90 respectively which speaks volumes about the neglect of the valley on educational front. The higher rate of illiteracy is said to spawn more child labour.
When asked about the steps being taken to address the issue, Official told Ground report, “We have prosecuted 50 offenders (child labour employers) in two years, of which one has been fined.”
Are there not any laws against child labour?
Government enacted a law against child labour in 1993 prohibiting dangerous work or activities that could harm the mental, spiritual, moral or social development of girls and boys under the age of 18. (Child Labour In Kashmir)
However, child labour continues for a number of reasons, for example people exploit loopholes in the law which allows the employment of children if the work is part of a family business. Thus, having children sell cigarettes on the street could be considered legal if it is part of a family business. In addition, numerous business leaders, such as mine owners, hold political office and have considerable influence. Companies may not be interested in banishing the cheap labour from within their business operations.
In 2006 and again in 2016, the laws against child labour were tightened to ensure that children under the age of 14 were prohibited from working as domestic help or service staff in restaurants and hotels. However, child labour in family businesses remains acceptable. In addition, the law does not apply to 15 to 17 year-olds who are only prohibited from doing “dangerous” work. These laws also do not exclude activities such as field work where children are exposed to pesticides or physically exhausting work like carpet weaving.
To ensure the enforcement of these laws, the government is currently developing another law which would increase the punishment for employers who use child labourers under the age of 14, changing the penalty from a fine to a prison sentence which would last several years.
What needs to stop it?
Much more has to be done in the political landscape to stop exploitative child labour in Kashmir, the laws against child labour must be further tightened and more strictly enforced.
In addition, it is important to combat extreme poverty, a root cause of child labour. Addressing poverty and inequality is crucial to end child labour in India.
Access to education is also vital to break the vicious cycle of poverty and child labour. As children complete higher levels of education, they are more likely to find decent work in adulthood and can use their income to care for themselves and their families without relying on child labour.
Although education is compulsory and free in India for children up to the age of 14, widespread poverty forces families to prioritize putting food on the table over sending their children to school. As a result, many children attend school irregularly or not at all because they have to work instead.