Both the “poverty argument” and the concept of irrelevance of education have played a major role in the formulation of government programs relating to child labour and education. As far as child labour is concerned the government’s philosophy revolves around the ‘harsh reality’ of child labour and hence even the legislation passed in this regard refers only to eliminating child labour from the so-called hazardous industries, while regulating it in the formal sector elsewhere.
This legislation specifically excludes child labour in family environment from its purview. Thus even of the official 17 million working children the various programs of the government target only 2 million children in the ‘hazardous industry’. Even these programs rely on such measures as compensating the parents for the loss in income from child labour, which completely betray a lack of understanding of the actual issues involved.
The education policy of the government succumbs to the poverty argument and the harsh reality of child labour even more. The biggest initiative in recent times, the Non formal Education program simply assumes that children have to work and hence advocates running of NFE centres that do not interfere with the work pattern of the children. Beyond this, apart from the empty rhetoric, little has been achieved.
Briefly stated, therefore, the government accepts unquestioningly the efficacy of both the Poverty Argument and the notion of irrelevance of education for working children. Both these concepts as we have already seen are flawed and need to be seriously challenged.