The sustained campaign against child labour by a wide range of government and non-governmental agencies and international organisations for several decades led to India banning child labour. But 25 years after the abolition, which primarily aimed at ensuring every child went to school, some spinning mills in Tamil Nadu’s Dindigul district are found to be not just engaging childen for menial work during their summer holidays but also pressuring them to drop out of school and continue in their employ. The shocking revelation should make any civilised person cringe in shame for it exposes the failure of our system in protecting exploitation of children. The poor peasant parents cannot be blamed for letting the children take up such summer jobs in mills. Because they see in the salary a princely amount that could be spent on the child’s education the subsequent year, which basically makes the exercise a supreme irony. For, it is learnt that supervisors in the mills see to it that the children never returned to school.
When the agricultural workers, who depend on the vagaries of nature, are keen on sending their children to school against all odds hoping that education would deliver them from the clutches of deprivation and powerlessness, what the mill managements are doing is abominable. No one has the right to stifle the future generation of people in a poverty-striken rural agrarian society.
The ban on child labour, as we are aware of, did not happen overnight. Even educating the poor and deprived classes of people in India on the importance of formal school education was not an easy task. We have come a long way in improving enrolment in schools. But India has a long way to go in achieving not just 100 per cent literacy but providing proper education to each of its citizens. No force on earth can be allowed to pull even one child out of a school. Let’s swear that every child has the right to be in school.