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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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India's Working Children Durable Link to this BLOG
Child-Labor in India

My mother takes on a very delicate matter of Working Children in her blog. This is an important issue that brings a lot of negative publicity to India. While it is true that a lot of children are exploited in India, my mother has tried to separate out the causes, the history, and has tried to provide some insights.

© K. L. Kamat
Girl Fetching Water for Household Use

I have long felt that one of the reasons why there is dignity of labor in America is that the children work from a young age. Youngsters in USA wash cars, baby-sit, clean garbage, or wait in restaurants for pocket money, and it will be very hard for them to look down upon a task/profession they had carried out in earlier years. I truly believe that exposure to real life problems enriches childhood, and makes one respect the fruits of labor.

India has also had this tradition of exposing children to the professions of the parents. It is a tradition that has gone on for centuries. India always has been the country of self-employed, and the children were always asked to pitch-in for the family vocation*. The tasks included running errands, watching out the merchandise when the shop-keeper stepped out to lunch or for bathroom etc., It is absolutely true that the children who excelled in this "helping", were asked to discontinue school & play and instead absorbed into the family enterprise at a very young age. This tradition, while might seem unfair to an outsider, was a vital link of providing employment and sustenance of the family.

Unemployment and Underemployment

The unemployment numbers are very high in India, and especially disturbing is the problem of underemployment (a person not earning enough to be above the poverty level). To make the ends meet, more members of the family have had to work, including the children.

As you can see, the problems of unemployment and child-labor in India have entangled relationships. If the parents had adequate employment, perhaps they wouldn't send their children to work. If so many children didn't work, perhaps there would be more employment opportunities for adults. If the children didn't enter the workforce at a tender age, they can command better wages. Even the two scenarios of child-labor (one meant for child's development, and another forced by the circumstances of economics) are interrelated.

* Unfortunately, as the caste system turned wicked, and problems of untouchability became prevalent, some of these professions lost respect. BTW, The loss of respect for some selective professions is one of the biggest problems of modern India. But that is a different problem.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Monday, October 21, 2002
Last Modified: 7/8/2004 2:25:29 PM

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