More than 20 per cent of child labourers, aged between 5 and 14 in India, are toiling in the fields or hunting in forests for a livelihood, a latest report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said. The report was released on Tuesday to mark the World Day against Child Labour.
Manufacturing and repairs are the next two sectors where there are lakhs of children working in spite of a ban on child labour in place since 2006. In percentage terms, more than 22 per cent and 25 per cent of working children are employed in these two sectors.
The data in the report, which is titled 'Child Labour Facts and Figures: An analysis of Census 2001', was compiled by ILO after analysing the last census.
The report divided child and adolescent labour in two categories: 5 to 14 years and 5 to 17 years. In real terms, in the first age group, total work force in India is 126.67 lakh, and in the second group, there are 283.48 lakh. "The share of the workers aged 5-14 years and 5-17 years in the total workforce of the country is 3.15 per cent and 7.05 per cent respectively," the report said.
Beside the weight and worry of the sheer number of child workers in the country, top government officials said on Tuesday that the worry is the increasing commercialisation of agriculture, for example, through contract farming. Besides, the changing pattern of living and livelihood among the tribals is also worrying.
Two of the main worries, according to the DK Sikri, Registrar General, Census of India, are commercialisation of agriculture and farming families, including children, switching to construction.
PK Ray, officiating director general, National Sample Survey Organisaiton, said rural families are being forced to send their children to work driven by acute poverty and hunger
In another development, the government on Tuesday announced its plans to expand the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) across the country during the 11th plan.
The scheme, under which children withdrawn from work are sent to special schools, is operating in 250 child labour endemic districts across 20 states. Currently there are 7,328 special schools functioning for over 4.20 lakh children withdrawn from work in these districts.
In these schools, children are kept for a maximum period of three years to prepare them to join the regular education system, provide education, vocational training, nutrition, stipend and health care facilities.