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2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - India

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 31 August 2007
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - India, 31 August 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d7493a15.html [accessed 23 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Percent of children 5-14 estimated as working in 2000:4.1%2060
Minimum age for admission to work:14 in specified hazardous occupations and processes2061
Age to which education is compulsory:142062
Free public education:Yes*2063
Gross primary enrollment rate in 2004:116%2064
Net primary enrollment rate in 2004:90%2065
Percent of children 5-14 attending school in 2000:71.5%2066
As of 2003, percent of primary school entrants likely to reach grade 5:79%2067
Ratified Convention 138:No2068
Ratified Convention 182:No2069
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes2070
* Implementing legislation has not been passed.

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2000, approximately 4.1 percent of boys and 4.0 percent of girls ages 5 to 14 were working in India. The majority of working children were found in the agricultural sector (73.3 percent), followed by manufacturing (12.4 percent), services (11.5 percent) and other sectors (2.8 percent).2071 According to the Government of India, the largest number of working children can be found in the State of Uttar Pradesh, followed by Andhra Pradesh,

Rajasthan, and Bihar. The government also found that most working children are in rural areas working in agriculture and related activities such as livestock tending, forestry, and fishing.2072 Children work in hazardous conditions in numerous industries, including quarrying, gemstone polishing; zari (embroidery or sewing of beads and colored threads to fabric); hybrid seed production; and the manufacture of matches, bricks, carpets, locks, glassware, fireworks, leather goods, brassware and other metal goods, bidis (cigarettes), and sporting goods.2073 In addition, they are found in service industries such as hotels, restaurants, and tourism. Within all economic sectors, the highest number of child laborers can be found in the informal economy.2074 Activities in which children are working in the informal economy include vending food and other goods; repairing vehicles; construction; food preparation; scavenging; shoe-shining; car washing and repair; begging; and domestic service in private homes. The majority of child domestic workers are girls 12 to 17, but some are reportedly as young as 5 or 6 years, and many work very long hours and suffer abusive treatment.2075

Some reports indicate that large numbers of children work under forced or bonded labor conditions in India. Past reports have identified forced or indentured child labor in floriculture; quarrying including the production of quarried stones; and the production of brass goods, footwear, locks, and silk thread and cloth.2076 More recent reports point to the existence of forced or indentured child labor in cottonseed production; other agricultural activities; circuses; rice mills; fishing; shops; domestic work; carpet weaving; salt making; and the manufacture of gemstones, fireworks, glassware, silver goods, matches, bidis, leather goods, and bricks.2077 The vast majority of bonded laborers are from former scheduled castes and tribal groups.2078

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a problem in India. Many are sold into commercial sexual exploitation by their impoverished families.2079 Child sex tourism has been reported in the State of Goa and other popular tourist destinations.2080 There is increasing awareness of boys being exploited in prostitution and sex tourism.2081 The traditional practice of child marriage, although illegal, is sometimes used to coerce children into commercial sexual exploitation.2082 There are also reports of children forced to work as soldiers by armed opposition groups.2083

India is a source, transit, and destination country for minors trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, industrial and agricultural labor, and begging.2084 Bangladeshi, Nepali, and Indian girls from rural areas are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in major urban centers such as Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), and New Delhi. Indian girls are also trafficked to the Persian Gulf to work as domestics or for commercial sexual exploitation, and Bangladeshi girls are trafficked through India into prostitution in Pakistan.2085 Boys as young as 4 from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are trafficked through India to the Middle East and Gulf countries to work as camel jockeys, although the practice has greatly decreased.2086 The majority of children trafficked are Indians trafficked within the country and even within the same state. Children living in conflict areas, such as the northeastern states, are especially vulnerable to trafficking.2087

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Indian law prohibits the employment of children under 14 years in any factory or in specified hazardous occupations and processes, such as work in slaughterhouses, carpet weaving, and trash picking.2088 In October 2006, the government added domestic service as well as work in roadside eateries (dhabas), restaurants, hotels, motels, tea shops, and other recreational establishments to its official list of hazardous work outlawed for children; bringing the totals to 15 occupations and 57 processes.2089 Children and adolescents 14 to 18 may work limited hours in factories during the daytime, if they have been granted a certificate of fitness.2090 Children of any age may be employed in all other activities, if employers adhere to restrictions including a maximum 6-hour workday with a 1-hour rest period, at least 1 day off per week, and no night work or overtime work. Penalties include fines or imprisonment of 3 months to 1 year, or up to 2 years for repeat offenses.2091

Bonded child labor is illegal in India. The law provides for district-level vigilance committees to investigate allegations of bonded labor; persons found using bonded labor may be fined and imprisoned for up to 3 years.2092 The state of Tamil Nadu charged district-level officials with the responsibility of investigating cases of bonded labor and releasing anyone found in bondage. The state reports that 13,051 of the 35,884 identified have been released from bondage and rehabilitated at the cost of USD 4 million. As of 2006, 803 of the 884 employers against whom cases were filed had been convicted.2093 The commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of boys and girls are prohibited by law. Penalties include imprisonment of 7 to 14 years for procuring, inducing, or taking a minor 16 to 18 from one place to another for prostitution; the penalty can increase to a life sentence if the victim is under 16.2094 It is illegal to cause any person to produce or deal in narcotic or psychotropic substances; punishment consists of fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years.2095 There is no compulsory conscription into the Indian military.2096

The enforcement of child labor and bonded labor laws is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments, with the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) providing oversight and coordination.2097 As of December 2006, state governments had identified 1,672 violations of the ban prohibiting children from engaging in hazardous work, based on the 23,166 inspections they had conducted.2098 In late 2006, Delhi police and NGOs raided several factories where children had been working under exploitive conditions and rescued more than 100 children.2099 Police forces in other states, including Assam and West Bengal, also conducted raids in 2006 to free children in trafficking situations. Raids were often carried out collaboratively with NGOs.2100 However, the U.S. Department of State reports that overall enforcement of child labor laws is inadequate, because of insufficient resources, poorly trained inspectors, low inspector salaries, and social acceptance of child labor.2101 Law enforcement against bonded labor is similarly inadequate. According to Human Rights Watch, there is a lack of meaningful action by vigilance committees, and the U.S. Department of State reports that penalties are too light to serve as an effective deterrent.2102

In September 2006, the government established a "nodal cell" responsible for central oversight of anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. For the most part, however, trafficking crimes are investigated and prosecuted at the state level. Officials continued to arrest and convict persons involved in trafficking, but the U.S Department of State reports that enforcement is inadequate relative to the scope of the problem.2103 According to the U.S. Department of State, enforcement efforts are hampered by police corruption, and a study by ECPAT points to lack of training as a problem. ECPAT also states that complicated procedures thwart efforts to prosecute crimes related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children.2104 During the reporting period, however, three state governments established, with substantial U.S. Government and UNODC assistance, the first state-level anti-trafficking police units in the country, which has led to an increase in rescues of sex trafficking victims and arrests of traffickers.2105

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

India's National Charter for Children (2003) enshrines the country's commitments to protect children from hazardous child labor and to provide universal access to primary education with a focus on children with special needs.2106 The MOLE oversees the National Policy on Child Labor (1987), which lays out concrete actions for combating child labor, including legislative reforms and projects to provide direct assistance to children.2107 These direct assistance projects, collectively known as the National Child Labor Projects (NCLP) Scheme, operate in districts with a high incidence of hazardous labor to identify working children, withdraw them from hazardous work, and provide non-formal education, vocational training, mainstreaming into formal education, stipends, and nutrition supplements. NCLP Societies have been established in 250 districts, in more than 3,700 schools.2108 The MOLE began public campaigns to raise awareness on child labor, and conducted videoconferences with states to coordinate efforts.2109 The MOLE's Grants in Aid Scheme operates in a number of districts that do not have NCLP Societies. The program funds projects to provide working children with education and vocational training opportunities, health care, and nutrition.2110 The MOLE also supports a program to train factory inspectors on child labor laws and regulations and sensitize them to the issue of child labor.2111 The States of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu are implementing state-level action plans to eliminate child labor.2112

The Government of India and USDOL jointly fund and collaborate on the USD 40 million INDUS project, which targets 80,000 children for withdrawal from work in 10 hazardous sectors: bidis, brassware, bricks, fireworks, footwear, glass bangles, locks, matches, quarrying, and silk. The project, implemented by ILO-IPEC, is designed to complement the NCLP program and government primary education initiatives. Target areas are 21 districts in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, as well as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The project is scheduled to continue through September 2008.2113

The national and state governments collaborate on a program to rescue and rehabilitate bonded laborers, which includes surveys to identify bonded laborers, stipends of 20,000 rupees (USD 441), as well as training and education for each rescued bonded laborer; and awareness-raising activities. The National Human Rights Commission, an independent body established by the government, works with the MOLE to provide training for district magistrates charged with implementing these identification and rehabilitation programs.2114

The government's Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children commits both the national and state governments to legal and regulatory reform, law enforcement, public awareness programs, and rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of victims.2115 The Ministry of Women and Child Development coordinates a wide range of anti-trafficking activities in collaboration with NGOs and state governments, including awareness-raising programs; victim rescue; and the provision of counseling, legal aid, medical care, repatriation, and rehabilitative services.2116 In 2006, the Home Ministry partnered with UNODC to hold a conference to raise awareness about trafficking and announce resource commitments aimed at addressing the problem.2117 In August 2006, the government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.2118

The Department of Education's Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative and Innovative Education Program provides non-formal education to out-of-school children, including child laborers.2119


2060 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, October 7, 2005.

2061 Government of India, Child Labor – Prohibition and Regulation Act (as amended), (1986 and July 10, 2006), Articles 2, 3, Schedule; available from http://labour.nic.in/cwl/ChildLabour.htm. See also Government of India, The Factories Act, No. 63 of 1948, as amended by No. 20 of 1987, (1948), Article 67; available from http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/32063/64873/E87IND01.htm. See also Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour 2005-2006, New Delhi, September 21, 2006, 80; available from http://www.labour.nic.in/annrep/annrep2005.htm.

2062 U.S. Department of State, "India," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006, Washington, DC, March 6, 2007, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78871.htm.

2063 Ibid.

2064 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Gross Enrolment Ratio. Primary. Total, accessed December 20, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/.

2065 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Net Enrolment Rate. Primary. Total, accessed December 20, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/.

2066 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

2067 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Survival Rate to Grade 5. Total, accessed December 18, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org.

2068 ILO, Ratifications by Country, accessed October 17, 2006; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

2069 Ibid.

2070 ILO-IPEC, IPEC Action Against Child Labour: Highlights 2006, Geneva, October 2006; available from http://www.ilo.org/iloroot/docstore/ipec/prod/eng/20061013_implementationreport_eng.pdf.

2071 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

2072 Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, 80.

2073 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 6c. See also Government of India, Child Labor – Prohibition and Regulation Act (as amended), Schedule.

2074 ILO – Subregional Office for South Asia, A Decade of ILO-India Partnerships, New Delhi, 2004, 70-71; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/download/misa_cl.pdf.

2075 Ibid. See also International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, "India: Economic Boom Masks Widespread Child Labour," Trade Union World no. 6 (October 2004), 2.

2076 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 6c. See also Ravi Srivastava, Bonded Labour in India: Its Incidence and Pattern, ILO – Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, Geneva, April 2005, 27; available from http://www.ilo.org/dyn/declaris/DECLARATIONWEB.DOWNLOAD_BLOB?Var_DocumentID=5071.

2077 Srivastava, Bonded Labour in India, 5-9, 16, 24, 27-29, 31. See also National Commission for Women, Public Hearing on the Condition of Bonded Labourers in Rice Mills of Red Hills, Thruvallur, New Delhi, October 4, 2004, 1-3. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 6c.

2078 Srivastava, Bonded Labour in India, 9. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 6c.

2079 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 5.

2080 ECPAT International and Aparna Bhat, Report on Laws and Legal Procedures Concerning the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in India, Bangkok, November 2004, 9; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/promoting_law/india_report/Laws_Legal_Procedures_India_ Nov2004.pdf. See also Equations, A Situational Analysis of Child Sex Tourism in India (Kerala and Goa), Bangkok, December 2003, 5; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/sex_tourism/India-Equations.Web.pdf.

2081 Sree Lakshmi Akula and Anil Raghuvanshi, Situational Analysis Report on Prostitution of Boys in India (Hyderabad), Bangkok, June, 2006, 7; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/publications/Boy_Prostitution/PDF/India_Hyderabad.pdf. See also Equations, Situational Analysis of Child Sex Tourism.

2082 ECPAT International and Aparna Bhat, Report on Laws and Legal Procedures, 8. See also U.S. Embassy – New Delhi, reporting, March 21, 2005.

2083 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers: Frequently Asked Questions, [online] [cited January 31, 2007]; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/childsoldiers/questions-and-answers. See also Human Rights Watch, "India," in World Report 2006, New York, January 18, 2006; available from http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/01/18/india12272.htm.

2084 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 5. See also Sankar Sen and P. M. Nair, A Report on Trafficking in Women and Children in India 2002-2003, National Human Rights Commission of India, Institute of Social Sciences, and UNIFEM, New Delhi, July 2004, 159.

2085 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 5.

2086 U.S. Department of State, "India (Tier 2 Watch List)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006, Washington, DC, June 5, 2006; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2006/65989.htm. See also US Embassy – New Delhi official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, August 5, 2007.

2087 Sankar Sen and P.M. Nair, A Report on Trafficking in Women and Children in India 2002-2003, National Human Rights Commission of India, Institute of Social Sciences, and UNIFEM, New Delhi, July, 2004, 353. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 5.

2088 Government of India, Child Labor – Prohibition and Regulation Act (as amended), Articles 2 and 3, Schedule. See also Government of India, The Factories Act, Article 67.

2089 U.S. Embassy – New Delhi, reporting, October 17, 2006. See also Government of India, Child Labor – Prohibition and Regulation Act (as amended), Schedule.

2090 Government of India, The Factories Act, Articles 2, 67, 68, 70, 71.

2091 Government of India, Child Labor – Prohibition and Regulation Act (as amended), Articles 7, 8, 14.

2092 Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, Act No. 19 of 1976, (February 9, 1976), Articles 4, 13, 14, 18; available from http://indiacode.nic.in/fullact1.asp?tfnm=197619. See also Government of India, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, No. 56, (December 30, 2000), Article 26; available from http://socialwelfare.delhigovt.nic.in/juvenilejustice1.htm.

2093 US Embassy – New Delhi official, E-mail communication, August 5, 2007.

2094 Government of India, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, (1956), Articles 2 and 5; available from http://www.helplinelaw.com/bareact/index.php?dsp=immoral-traffic.

2095 Government of India, The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, No. 61, (1985), Articles 8, 15-32; available from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/legal_library/in/legal_library_1987-06-05_1985-33.html.

2096 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "India," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=851.

2097 Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, 67, 80. See also Human Rights Watch, Small Change: Bonded Child Labor in India's Silk Industry, January, 2003, 54; available from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/india/.

2098 US Embassy – New Delhi official, E-mail communication, August 5, 2007.

2099 U.S Embassy – New Delhi, reporting, January 11, 2007.

2100 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 5.

2101 US Embassy – New Delhi, reporting, December 15, 2006.

2102 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006: India." See also Human Rights Watch, Small Change, 47.

2103 Ibid.

2104 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006: India." See also ECPAT International and Aparna Bhat, Report on Laws and Legal Procedures, 1, 32.

2105 US Embassy – New Delhi official, E-mail communication, August 5, 2007.

2106 Ministry of Women and Child Development, National Charter for Children, New Delhi, February 9, 2004, Articles 7 and 8b; available from http://wcd.nic.in/nationalcharter2003.doc.

2107 Ministry of Labour and Employment, National Policy on Child Labour, [online] [cited October 16, 2006]; available from http://labour.nic.in/cwl/ClPolicy.htm.

2108 Ministry of Labour and Employment, Efforts to Eliminate Child Labour, [online] December 23, 2004 [cited January 30, 2007]; available from http://pib.nic.in/release/rel_print_page1.asp?relid=5985. See also Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, 81-82. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 6d.

2109 US Embassy – New Delhi official, E-mail communication, August 5, 2007.

2110 Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, 6, 82 and 84.

2111 U.S. Embassy – New Delhi, reporting, September 14, 2005.

2112 U.S. Embassy – New Delhi official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, February 2, 2007.

2113 ILO-IPEC, Preventing and Eliminating Child Labor in Identified Hazardous Sectors, project document, Geneva, September, 2001, 3, 6-7, 18-19. See also Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, 85. See also ILO-IPEC, Preventing and Eliminating Child Labor in Identified Hazardous Sectors, technical progress report, Geneva, September 13, 2006.

2114 Ministry of Labour and Employment, Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, 67-68. See also U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006: India." For currency conversion, see OANDA, FX Converter – Currency Converter for 164 Currencies, [online] [cited October 17, 2006]; available from http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic.

2115 Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, "Dealing With Trafficking in Persons: Another Dimension of US-India Transformation" (Mumbai, February 18, 2003); available from http://www.state.gov/p/sca/rls/rm/17900.htm.

2116 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: India," Section 5.

2117 Ibid.

2118 U.S. Embassy New Delhi, reporting, March 1, 2007.

2119 Ministry of Human Resource Development – Department of Education, Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative and Innovative Education, [online] [cited October 17, 2006]; available from http://www.education.nic.in/htmlweb/edu_guarantee_sch/edu_guarantee_back.htm.

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