One in every three child labourers in the age group of 7-14 is illiterate, said a study based on Census data.
"Close to 1.4 million child labourers in India in the age group of 7-14 years cannot write their names. This means one in three child labourers in the said age group is illiterate," an analysis of Census data by CRY- Child Rights and You said in a statement.
This is the grim reality of children who work for more than six months in a year. Even for children who support the family economy by working for less than six months in a year, which is very common in India, the situation is equally, if not more, worse.
According to the statement, a shocking 2 million of these marginal workers have compromised their education as well. The situation is also reflected in the state figures.
While 45 per cent of child labourers in Bihar are illiterate, in Rajasthan and Jharkhand the figure stands at 40 per cent.
Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have about 38 per cent child labourers as illiterate. There is a high potential of early school drop-outs and those not learning at school to remain outside the world of employment, it said.
These children when grow remain at a risk of not having secured jobs and thus remain trapped in the intergenerational cycle of poverty and deprivation, it said.
The numbers stated earlier contradict this assumption and is an evidence enough that this needs to change, for main as well as marginal child labourers, the statement added.
In 1992, when India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a reservation was made in article 32, wherein the Government of India articulated that it would progressively ban all forms of child labour.
Now, after 30 years since the Child Labour Law came into force, India has the opportunity to amend the law in favour of these children. However, the proposed amendment in the Child Labour law leaves a glaring gap in the prohibition of labour for children under the age of 14, CRY said.
The new law also allows children in this age group to work in family occupations after school hours.
The Census 2011 data for children in labour states that 6.5 million children in India in the age group of 5 to 14 work in agriculture and household industries. This makes a staggering 64.1 per cent of child labourers in this age group.
CRYs on ground experience reveals that a large number of children engaged in these occupations are working with their families, thus exempting them from the proposed ban.
Allowing children to work in family enterprises is likely to have far reaching implications affecting not only their education and learning outcomes but also their health and overall development, it added.