The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), in a report put out in January 2014, “Employment and Unemployment Situation in India, 2011-12”, has found that both in rural areas and urban areas, Gujarat has one of the highest percentage of child workers. The report should be a big blow to the state’s powerful policy makers who have claiming that Gujarat has negligible incidence of child labour. Rajiv Shah takes a look:
The latest National Sample Survey (NSS) data, put out in January 2014, have revealed a stark reality: The proportion of child labour in Gujarat in both urban and rural areas is one of the highest in India. Calculated on the basis of usual status of employment, taking principal and subsidiary activities together, the NSS has found that, in urban Gujarat 2.2 per cent of children in the age-group 5-14 are in the workforce, which is higher than most Indian states, except West Bengal (12.6 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (4.4 per cent). Things are worse in rural areas, where Gujarat’s 4.3 per cent of children in the age-group 5-14 are the workforce, which is again higher than all major Indian states, except Jharkhand (6.7 per cent).
An analysis of the NSS data suggest that there was a fall in child labour in Gujarat, from 3.6 per cent of the child population, as found in the NSSO’s report of 2006 on the basis of the survey carried out the top Government of India statistical body carried out in 2004-05, to 2.2 per cent in the latest report, which is based on the NSSO’s survey of 2011-12. A similar fall in the percentage of child workers can in seen in the rural areas – from 5.6 per cent in 2004-06 to 4.3 per cent in 2011-12. However, as the “Reference Note” on child labour, published by the Lok Sabha secretariat in 2013 and meant for use to members of parliament, admits, fall in the percentage of child labour is an all-India phenomenon.
The “Reference Note” specifically says, “Evidence drawn from the National Sample Survey data suggest that India’s child workforce during 2004-05 was estimated at little over 90.7 lakh as against 215.5 lakh in 1983. During this period, the number of child employment declined sharply by 124.8 lakh. There is considerably higher fall in child workforce among boys than girls. The corresponding fall in boys and girls workforce during 1983 to 2004- 05 is observed to have decreased from 120.6 to 47.6 lakh, and 94.9 to 43.1 lakh, respectively.” As for 2009-10, it points out, “As per NSSO survey 2009-10, the working children are estimated at 49.84 lakh which shows a declining trend.”
Quoting a Rajya Sabha unstarred question, the “Reference Note” says that in 2009-10, Gujarat had 3,90,687 child workers – 3,58,460 rural and 32,224 urban. This was, significantly, the highest among all Indian states. While no quantification of child workers in Gujarat has been made in the latest NSS report put out in January 2014, it can safely be assumed that things should have not changed. As against Gujarat’s 3.5 lakh child labourers found in 2009-10, Bihar had 2.7 lakh, Maharashtra 2.6 lakh, Karnataka 2.2 lakh, and so on. The lowest number of child workers was in Kerala, merely 2,765, next lowest being Himachal Pradesh (7,391).
These facts have come to light at a time when a new bill is pending before the national Parliament which wants to include ban child labour up for those who reach 18 years of age. While NSS does not have separate figures for children between 15 and 18, it has found that in the age-group 15-19, i.e. those who should potentially be in high school and beyond up to the college, again, Gujarat has one of the highest percentage of workers. In rural areas, 33.4 per cent of children work, which is higher than all the Indian states. In urban areas, too, 21.3 per cent of the age group 15-19 work, which is again higher than all Indian states.