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Past tense, future imperfect

india Updated: Oct 11, 2006 12:54 IST
Highlight Story

At small, roadside food stalls across New Delhi, many of the young boys and girls who serve glasses of piping hot tea, wash dishes, mop floors and take out trash have heard about the ban on child labour.

But for these children, the news is not cause for celebration. "As it is, I barely make enough to survive," said 12-year-old Dinesh Kumar, who has been doing odd jobs since coming to New Delhi three years ago.

The new law, which went into effect on Tuesday, bans hiring children under the age of 14 as servants in homes or as workers in tea shops, hotels and spas. But for the kids themselves, the issue is not clear.

The kids, from poor families are expected to work, and in many cases are the sole bread-winner for their families. In some New Delhi markets on Tuesday, shopkeepers prominently displayed posters saying they didn't use child workers.

One, in upscale Khan Market, read: "We are proud to declare we do not employ child labour." But child rights activists say the new law does not address poverty, the root cause of child labour.

“Further undermining the law is the lack of any plans for those out of work,” said Rita Panicker, of the Butterflies, an NGO. Poverty also gives cover to those who use child workers, many of whom insist they are only helping these children by providing a job.

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