According to WHO large numbers of children are malnourished in India and suffer from deadly diseases. India holds the worst health record in the world. To curb the situation which could have resulted in a huge disaster steps were taken by the government to protect these kids. It was brought to the notice of Supreme Court that most of the children suffer from they are deprived of the basic necessities of life. They start working at an early age and condition in which they work makes it worse. The factories where these children are hired are hazardous and often lead to death.

Health of children in India

As indicated by the reports of world health organization, 30% children are stunted whereas 18% have low weight for height globally. More than eight million children die every year from infectious and preventable diseases. In India every third child is malnourished. According to annual reports of UNICEF health of children in India remain alarmingly poor. Infant mortality rate, nutrient deficiency disorders and malnutrition are very high. The largest threat to the kids is diarrhoeal disease; over 2 billion kids have malnutrition due to this disease.

In India, great numbers of families fall in the risk of poverty due to huge health expenses. Million of kids are at risk of becoming malnourished. We also witness cases where there is discrimination in food based schemes which lead to starvation and then death. Also there are no programmes to help the kids who are specially challenged. Children with disabilities, mental disorders and HIV have less or no access to medical help.

India holds the worst health records in the world. TB is also the most prevalent disease right now along with anaemia. Kerala shows the best record whereas Uttar Pradesh has the worst record with 47% kids underdeveloped. Condition of girls need immediate attention because they are the most ignored section. Hence, have no access to health care. Though the government is taking initiatives to protect the children but health status of children in India show scenario is worse than most of the neighbouring countries as the impact of these initiatives has been very limited.

Constitutional aspect of children’s health

India is also one of the signatories to the United Nations conventions on the Rights of the child. These rights include
-promoting and addressing healthy lives

-providing health education

-protection against exploitation, violence and child abuse

Right to education and health were assigned the top priority. India adopted right to education where government will provide free and compulsory education to children between 6-14 years of age but there were many problems like lack of interest from the children, parents failed to fulfil their responsibility to send their kids to school, lack of qualified teachers, poor school infrastructure. Whereas right to health is regarded as an essential right for all without any age bar and children form the most neglected segment of this pie chart. Children are dependent upon their parents for all their needs. It becomes the responsibility of the parents to provide proper and healthy nutrition, environment and sanitation to their kids. But in the absence of parental care it becomes the responsibility of the state to take care of the kids. Indian judiciary system has addressed many issues

-working in hazardous conditions

-bonded labour

-employment of the kids below the age of 14

Supreme Court of India gave many judgements where it protected the right of health of workers but less attention was given to children. In Indian constitution there are many provisions relating to children.

-· Article 15(3) provides that nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.

-· Article 21A provides that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

-Article 23(1) provides that traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

-Article 24 provides that no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

-Article 39(e) provides that the shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

- Article 39(f) provides that the shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

-Article 45 provides that the State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.

-Article 47 provides that the State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.

-Article 51A(k) provides that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

There have been many policies and acts to protect the children against any discrimination or exploitation like bonded labour which results in poor health of the children these days. These policies include national policy for children, 1974; National Policy on Education, 1986; National Policy on Child Labour, 1987; National Health Policy, 2002.

Reasons for poor health
The main issue in our country is poverty and illiteracy which results in poor health of the citizens. Due to lack of resources these kids are unable to think apart from food. Their prime goal is to fill their stomach. Among the underprivileged section of our society education and health were never a priority. Kids don’t go to school to take basic knowledge. Due to lack of knowledge they agree to work in hazardous conditions for meagre wages. Even the parents fail to fulfil their responsibility towards their kids. They think more number of off springs will give them more hand to earn money. But they forget that more number of kids will result in more number of stomachs to fill food. Kids from underprivileged families start working from an early age and roast their lives in the oven of slavery. They become slaves to circumstances. They dream about living a luxurious life but that itself remains a dream and never gets fulfilled because they fail to overcome this situation of bonded labour and spent their lives earning meagre wages. The environment in which these kids work is not satisfactory. The factories and the chemicals used in manufacturing units are hazardous and affect the kids greatly. By the time they grow up they have deteriorated their health in a way that cannot be reverted. Their mental abilities get affected, many kids have stunted growth. Asthma and TB are the most prevalent among the kids working in cracker factories. These kids don’t wear protective clothes to protect their skin.

Adults and kids have different working condition. Conditions which can be safe for adults may not be safe for kids as they are not physically developed. Diseases that we get in childhood have a long term effect. The workload on these kids at such a tender age can result in bleak future. Also these kids work constantly for over 8-9 hours. They don’t have much of a choice other than working for their bread and butter.

Child labour (Rules and Regulation) Act, 1986

The act prohibits the children below the age of 14 years to work in hazardous conditions (hazardous occupations are identified by law). Adolescents between the ages of 14-18 years are not allowed to work in the hazardous industries and processes. This act was passed to curb the condition that was prevailing in India. Children are the future of any nation. Health and knowledge given to children shapes their future. State witnessed a very deteriorating situation where kids failed to go to school because they were spending more time working in hazardous conditions. Kids had started working in cracker factories, bangle factories, even cigarette manufacturing units were hiring kids because they could make them work for longer hours with or without any wages. This results in toiling kids, stunted, deformed, rachitic, predisposed to consumption, if not tuberculous. The number of diseases suffered by these kids include- spinal curvature, organic lesion of heart, incipent phthisis, enlarged glands in neck and axilla, defective sight, deafness, sore hands, and mutilated fingers, undersized, hernia, tuberculosis, bronchitis, syphilis, anaemic, skin eruptions.

Case law

There have been many cases related to child labour in India

(1) M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court has held that children below the age of 14 years cannot be employed in any hazardous condition, mines or other works and has laid down exhaustive guidelines how the state authorities should protect economic, social and humanitarian rights of millions of children, working illegally in public and private sections. M.C. Mehta brought in the notice of court the plight of children engaged in Sivakasi cracker factories. Sivakasi fireworks industry where due to lack of modern equipments child labour was extensively practiced. These kids worked continuously for 9-10 hours for meagre wages. . Hence they lose their health and grow up to be malnourished and have stunted growth or deformed body. Asthma and TB is the most common disease that is witnessed in these kids as they are directly in contact with poisonous chemicals and ingredients used for making crackers and matches. Also due to lack of money these kids don’t wear any protective clothes which results in the accumulation of chemicals like aluminium, sulphur and gun powder on their skin. Few crackers also use nitric acid, which causes severe skin diseases and sometimes skin cancer. Working in these factories can even lead to death and mental retardation. The court directed setting up of child labour rehabilitation welfare fund and asked the offending employer to pay for each child a compensation of Rs.20, 000 to be deposited in the fund and suggested number of ways to rehabilitate them.

(2) People’s union for democratic rights v. Union of India it was contended that employment of children act, 1938 was not applicable in case of employment of children in the construction work of Asiad projects in Delhi since construction industry was not a process specified in the schedule of children act. The court rejected this contention and held that the construction work is hazardous employment and therefore no child below 14 years can be employed in the construction work even if the construction industry is not specified in the schedule. Justice Bhagwati advised the state government to take immediate steps for inclusion of construction work in the schedule to the act, and to ensure that the constitutional mandate of article 24 is not violated in any part of the country.

(3) Also there were cases of cigarette- bhedi manufacturing factories where tobacco is used extensively these kids’ contract throat diseases. The smoke they inhale makes them sick. Lung and throat cancer becomes very common in these kids.


Child labour is a global issue which is associated with inadequate educational opportunities, poverty, socio economic inequality and range of health risk. Children are the future of any nation, no compromise should be done with the child’s health and any work that interferes with the health and education of children should be eliminated. State should identify the health hazards of child labour and spread awareness among the parents and children so that we can work for its eradication.

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