Rampant Child Labor Turning Skill India Mission Into a Joke!

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘launched skill India mission’ in 2015 aiming to realize the potentials of India’s demographic dividend. According to the 2011 NSSO survey report, More than 54% of India’s population falls below the 25 years of age. Yet only 2.2% of its population gets formal training and 8.6% gets informal training. The data reveals that around 89% of India’s population do not receive any kind of formal or informal training and hence trapped in vicious circle of poverty attracting low growth, low income, low investment and low saving. Scaling up skill development initiatives stems from the fact that unskilled work force faces unpredictable employment, low paying jobs and yields low productivity for the economy.

 

Prime minister of India paved the way for national skill development and entrepreneurship ministry which has been set up as the sole authority to coordinate and regulate the skill development programmes and schemes under various departments. In addition, in July 2015, a sum of 1,500 crore have been earmarked for the training of 40 crore people till 2022. Several initiatives such as Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen kaushal Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras, India International Skills Centres and skill loan scheme have been launched to impart skills to a big chunk of India’s unskilled youth. Through these initiatives, The Government of India has been trying to set up linkages with the industry as well as potential employees. Employers complaint that India’s youth do not possess skills that are needed for a globalised and highly competitive market. The skill India mission seeks to create a pool of skilled work force which is capable of being employed in the local, national and international market and bridge the gaps that exist between skill demands of the employer and skills possessed by the Indian work force.

 

Child labor is a peril that has negative consequences upon the skill India mission. In 1986, child labor prohibition and regulation act was passed in which engagement of children in hazardous occupations was banned. The act was passed to secure a healthy development of children. In 2016, child labor prohibition and regulation amendment Act has been passed which allows children below 14 years of age to work in the family enterprises. Moreover, the act also reduced the number of hazardous occupations from 83 to only include mining, explosives, and occupations included in the factory’s act. This in tales that works in chemical mixing units, cotton farms, battery recycling units and brick kilns among others have been dropped. The child right activist have termed the act regressive since it contradicts children’s right to free and compulsory elementary education. The Act fails on several fronts and may also jeopardize skill India mission.

 

According to UNICEF there are 33 million child laborers in India who are exploited and abused by their employers. Children are employed in factories and establishments because they are the cheapest source of labor and they can be easily manipulated. The availability of cheap labor in the form of children leads to the unemployment of adults as employer would prefer unskilled labor over skilled labor unless it is cheap and more lucrative. According to Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) India has 60 million child laborers and 65 million adults are unemployed.

 

The second concern is that if the children continue to work in the factories then they would always remain illiterate, fragile and poor. The children are exposed to injuries and occupational hazards. Many a times they are crippled by using the sharp tools, and carrying heavy loads of materials on their shoulder or head. The children also work with chemicals, pesticides and dust which results in life threatening diseases and physical ailments. Child labor fosters a vicious cycle of poverty because they remain uneducated and end up in performing repetitive unskilled tasks that erode their employability in future. More importantly, the child labor accentuates the intergenerational bondage of poverty that is created by the hereditary occupational linked with particular castes and creeds. Thus the child laborers do not find avenues for the educational opportunities and training of vocational skills.

 

Without eliminating child labor, the dream of skill India is farcical and unrealistic. It would have far reaching impacts on the employment opportunities and productivity of potential youth. Education and training are key components of skill development. Unless the government would not increase the budget outlays for the education and healthcare the skill India would remain a distant dream.

 

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