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November 23, 2005

Another form of slavery - Child labour in India

Topics: International News

_41046878_labourkids2_203bbc.jpegChildren as young as 5 years old have been rescued from slave labour conditions in Delhi. Despite the fact that it is illegal in India to employ children under the age of 14, desperate parents are sending their children to Delhi where they work in very poor conditions.

Normally they work in small rooms, poorly ventilated and badly lit. And most work for more than 10 hours a day," says M Rajan, the managing trustee of Pratham, the NGO which collected the data on these children
. A typical example is that of young Mohammad Ramzani who claims to be 16 years old but is possibly no more than 9 years old. He came to Delhi two months ago and worked in a handicrafts firm.

He worked eight hours every day and at the end of the month, his manager sent 300 rupees (nearly $6.5) to his mother in Katihar, in Bihar state.

"I do not really like working, but I have no choice," says Ramzani.

Between sobs, he tells me he is the sole bread winner in his family

. Young Mohammed is the sole bread winner for his family and he has a mother and siblings dependent upon his meager earnings._41047090_labourkids3_203inbbc.jpeg
These children will go before a court and then they will be returned to their homes, but what of the future for them and their families? These children have been living and working in slave conditions. They work long hours for poor pay. Their families need them to work because there is no other bread winner for the family. The population of India is very large, and the government does not have a welfare system that would guarantee relief for a family that does not have an adult bread winner. Even at the local village or community level there is simply no income support for a widow and her children.

This particular form of slavery exists not just in India, but in other countries such as China, where the workers are kept in sweat shops, working long hours for low pay so that the owners of the factories can profit from their labour. This market will continue to exist so long as there are entrepreneurs who willing to use the desperately poor for their own gain. The entrepreneurs sell their goods on the international market and thus they continue to profit from children such as Mohammed who recognizes his need to earn money to ease the burden on his mother.

India is undergoing rapid economic change. This is not a backward nation, even though India does remain amongst the third world nations. A large number of companies, especially Australian companies, are moving their operations offshore and into India because there is such a large base of cheap labour. The education levels are continuing to improve, but it seems that not all children are reaping the benefits of improvement since these children are being forced to earn a living so that their families can survive. Since India is growing economically, the Indian government has an obligation to seek to alleviate the suffering of Indian widows and children, regardless of religious affiliation.

In the past Indian has wasted money building up for an arms race against Pakistan. This has been at the expense of the extremely poor in this nation. Legislation banning children under 14 from working is not enough to guarantee that the trade in child slave labour will automatically cease.

Posted by at November 23, 2005 3:39 AM

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