ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rescuing Childhood

The editorial “Let the Children Play” (EPW, 18 April 2015) is thought-provoking. The problem of child labour can be contextualised as a structural one. Children working in “informal economy” units like general stores, fast food restaurants, tea stalls, and garages have painful stories to narrate. These children are not only victims of illiteracy and child labour, they also suffer from lack of parental care, nutrition, and family socialisation. Most of them are forced to endure different kinds of hazardous occupations, often tragically becoming victims of sexual abuse and drug addiction. The tools of intoxication like whiteners and painkillers (taken with cold-drinks) are affordable for them from their daily wages. Another problem is tracing their whereabouts. We only know of some prominent places like restaurants and shops which employ child labour. However, underage children working as domestic helps often go unnoticed.

The problem of street children also merits serious intervention. Many of them end up meeting street-corner criminals and committing serious crimes. When these children are “rescued” by child rights organisations, nobody comes to claim them at the government shelter homes. As a result these children are soon back on the street. The problem of child labour and street children also calls into question the efficacy of labour laws and institutions dealing with the phenomenon.

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