Child labour is a complex socio-economic problem in India. It has to be dealt with sustained measures over a long period of time. A study conducted by the ILO Bureau of Statistics found that "Children’s work was considered essential to maintaining the economic level of households, either in the form of work for wages, of help in household enterprises or of household chores in order to free adult household members for economic activity elsewhere". Poverty of the families, extent of social backwardness and an unsuitable curriculum are the reasons for either not going to school or dropping out of school even before they complete their compulsory education.
The labour laws in India duly conform to the ILO Conventions on child labour to which India is a Party. India has ratified six ILO Conventions relating to child labor and played a leading role in the adoption of ILO Convention No. 182 on Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour at the 87th Session of the International Labor Conference in Geneva in June 1999. India has also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 2nd December 1992.
In India the employment of children in factories, mines or other hazardous employment are prohibited Article 24 of the Constitution. Article 39 (e) of the Constitution enjoins the State to direct its policy towards securing that children are not abused and ensure that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age or strength. Article 39(f) guarantees protection of children against exploitation and moral and material abandonment. Article 45 lays down the provision of free and compulsory education to children up to the age of 14 years.
As per the provisional figures of Census 2001, there are 12.5 million working children in age group of 5-14 years as compared to the child population of 252 million.
The Government of India adopted a National Child Labor policy in 1987, in accordance with the constitutional provisions and various legislations on child labour and with the objective of placing the issue on the nation's agenda and to formulate a specific action plan to eliminate child labor. Under the action plan of the policy, National Child Labour Projects (NCLPs) have been set up in child labour endemic areas to rehabilitate children released from work.