As the world observes the World Day Against Child Labour, a dark realisation dawns upon it with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) latest report. According to the report, child labour has increased to 160 million worldwide. This is the first time that the numbers have jumped in two decades, which curbed the progress made before the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The theme of World Day Against Child Labour this year is power-packed in its appeal. It demands us to ‘Act Now, End Child Labour’. However, what is stopping us from doing so is the intrinsic societal structures that we live within. The affluent take advantage of those who do not have much say. Our reluctance to question the norm is also to blame.
Not even two months back, on April 22, 2021, a charred body of a 12-year old Karbi girl was found outside her employers’ house in Raha, Nagaon. This incident led to a national outcry against the injustices of child labour. The young girl was merely seven years old when she was brought to her employers, Prakash and Rina Borthakur’s home with the promise that she would be educated in a primary school nearby. Her parents, father Sarthe Rongham and mother Basapi Kro’pi of Kundam Rongham village under Baithalangso of West Karbi Anglong, trusted the responsibility of their daughter to the Nagaon-based couple in hope for a better future. The despicable incident that followed changed the course of time.
She was among the over 5000 children from Karbi Anglong who currently work as household helps in the Nagaon district. However, Nagaon is not an isolated incident, nor are children only employed as domestic help. Many children are forced to work under appalling circumstances. It is just that this case is so horrifying that it compelled us to see the truth that has been plaguing our society – children living lives that they do not deserve to.
Since April 2021, 181 cases of Protection for Abuse (PFA) were registered in Guwahati. Sixty-eight of these were cases related to child labour. It is noteworthy that many times cases go unregistered. Yet, there are ways to find the light at the end of the tunnel. The Labour Welfare Department of Assam Government has released a set of objectives that can help stop this menace. The rest, we can – by staying conscientious and vigilant.