With credible estimates ranging from 60 to 115 million, India has the largest number of working children in the world. Whether they are sweating in the heat of stone quarries, working in the fields sixteen hours a day, picking rags in city streets, or hidden away as domestic servants, these children endure miserable and difficult lives. They earn little and are abused much. They struggle to make enough to eat and perhaps to help feed their families as well. They do not go to school; more than half of them will never learn the barest skills of literacy. Many of them have been working since the age of four or five, and by the time they reach adulthood they may be irrevocably sick or deformedCthey will certainly be exhausted, old men and women by the age of forty, likely to be dead by fifty. At least fifteen million of them, however, are working as virtual slaves. These are the bonded child laborers of India. This report is about them. Bonded child labor refers to the phenomenon of children working in conditions of servitude in order to pay off a debt. The debt that binds them to their employer is incurred not by the children themselves, but by their relatives or guardians usually by a parent. More than 300,000 children are estimated to be working in the carpet industry, the majority of them in bondage. This is a large number, but it represents only about 2 percent of the bonded child laborers of India.
The Small Hands of Slavery
Bonded Child Labor in India