From 2010 to 2015, crimes against children saw a steep rise from 26,694 cases to 94,172 cases — an increase of 252 percent. This is a statistic that should be a cause for much alarm and indignation. Of course, these are nationwide numbers and they need to be disaggregated for them to make more sense. But it is a question worth asking as to why crimes committed against children rarely evoke the kind of vehement public responses as crimes committed by children do.
Children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation for many reasons, including their dependence on adults, their lack of knowledge of their own rights and a relative lack of access to institutions which can support them. Child labour is just one example of a widely prevalent practice of crimes against children — in which all these three factors contribute.
P*, who presently lives in a children’s home run by Prayas JAC Society, is a case on how children can be particularly vulnerable. The 10-year boy is from Bihar, and comes from an extremely backward caste. In an extreme case of exploitation, although the boy worked for three years in all, his father got merely Rs 10,000 in exchange for this work. P worked in particularly dangerous conditions — in a bangle-making factory in Delhi. However, the alternative for him is not a promising one either — his father works as a farmer with a very meagre income, and the family had consented to him going to Delhi for work.
Indeed, a large number of cases of child labour in Delhi are characterised by dangerous work conditions or work hours that are not practically possible to monitor. For example, bangle-making is extremely risky work. As noted by a Unicef report, it involves joining the ends of a bangle over a kerosene flame, using fast-moving blades and using chemicals for decoration. Some cases of child labour involve kids working as full-time domestic helpers at homes along with their families.
In such cases, it is difficult to monitor working hours and the effect that such work on the child’s education.