Covid-19 outbreak has unleashed the child labour pandemic to a new high. As per the data of Census 2011, the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million, of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls.

The child labour issue and Covid19:

According to World Bank, 12 million have a chance of slipping down the poverty line because of the pandemic. Poverty is directly correlated to child labour. During this prolonged crisis period, there have been increased calls to helpline numbers, showing a sharp rise in child labourers in Northern India. This pattern is very prominent in developing countries.

There are millions of migrants who are jobless in this pandemic and have returned to their homes, with no work back there. Lack of remittances is also believed to contribute to a rise in the child labour.

Even when the schools will resume, many parents might not send back their children to school due to lack of money. Hence, it requires multi pronged strategies to deal with this social problem.

How to tackle the child labour menace?

Since poverty and illiteracy are the root causes of child labour, law and enforcement alone cannot help solve it. Hence, the Government has to take steps to rehabilitate these children and taking various policy measures and poverty alleviation programmes to bring an end to the menace.

It is quite necessary to adopt an integrated approach and strictly implement the rules and laws in letter and spirit to get over the menace.

Teachers, community leaders, social activists and the law-enforcement agencies should take the lead to do away with the menace which axes the fundamental human rights of a child and to end all forms of child rights abuse and exploitation.

Reviving the economy should be a primary focus of the government’s agenda, but diluting the labour laws, as already done by many states, could have an adverse effect on theis section of population. For example, preventing site supervision can lead to rampant increase in child labour. Due to cheap labour, children will be employed in more numbers wth no second eye on these employers.

Post-pandemic situation:

Various child rights organizations have showed their concern of increase in child labour in the post-pandemic situation. Sj. Santosh Gangwar, Labour Minister, GOI, has also agreed upon its possibilities. It is important to note that increase in child labour will also increase illiteracy rate and reinforce poverty. Thus, child labour should be treated as a basic human right issue by all the key stakeholders and adequate steps need to be taken to curtail it.