There are several reasons for this. The main one is that when it comes to children of ‘poor’ parents, policy makers tend to think that there is something inevitable about a child working. They believe that the child is working because the family is dependent on the income earned by the child for survival. They believe that if the child is withdrawn from work the family will starve. Child labour in their opinion is a ‘harsh reality’.
This belief that child labour is inevitable and nothing can be done about it colours all aspects of child labour policy in India. It is mainly responsible for the view that the best approach is to attack the most exploitative forms of child labour first. Children in various ‘hazardous’ industries present themselves as the most exploited. They are also the most visible. As a result the emphasis has been on child labour in these industries, almost to the exclusion of all other forms of child labour. Child labour in the agriculture sector in particular has been ignored.
The other reason why this aspect has been ignored is that policy makers and program implementers tend to get bogged down by numbers. They are completely intimidated by the every large number of child labourers in agriculture. ”What will happen if all children engaged in agriculture work stop working?” As a result the tendency is to justify child labour in this sector either by ignoring its presence altogether or by not classifying it as child labour at all but as being child work, which is good for the child.