Q11. Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu is known for its manufacturing clusters of firecrackers and matches. The local economy of the area is largely dependent on the firecrackers industry. It has led to tangible economic development and improved the standard of living in the area.
So far, as child labour norms for hazardous industries like firecrackers industry are concerned, International Labour Organisation (ILO) has set the minimum age as eighteen years. In India, however, this age is fourteen years.
The units in industrial clusters of firecrackers can be classified into registered and non-registered entities. One typical unit is household-based work. Though the law is clear on the use of child labour employment norms in registered/non-registered units, it does not include household-based works. Household-based work means children working under the supervision of their parents/relatives. To evade child labour norms, several units project themselves as household-based works but employ children from outside. Needless to say, employing children saves the costs for these units, leading to higher profits to the owners. On your visit to one of the units at Sivakasi, the owner takes you around the unit which has about ten-to-fifteen children below fourteen years of age. The owner tells you that in his household-based unit, the children are all his relatives. You notice that several children smirk when the owner tells you this. On deeper enquiry, you learn that neither the owner nor the children are able to satisfactorily establish their relationship with each other.
(a) Bring out and discuss the ethical issues involved in the above case.
(b) What would your reaction be after such a visit? (300 words; 25)
(a) It is the duty of every government officer to comply with the law and ensure its compliance by the people. According to law, children below the age of fourteen should not be employed in hazardous industries like firecrackers. By deploying the children in such factories at such young age, their parents and the industries have broken the law and played with the future of the children.The law does not include household-based works under its ambit because it assumes that if parents and close relatives are employing their children for some job, they shall be taking care of the safety and security of the children. This is clearly a case where the manufacturer has employed children other than the family members and thus violated the law.
Employing children in hazardous industries violates the principle of paternalism which requires people to assist others in pursuing their best interests when they cannot do so themselves.
(b) I would thoroughly investigate the case and gather sufficient evidence with the help of the statements of the children and their parents, and collect documents like Aadhaar to make a foolproof case against the manufacturer. Thereafter, the owner of the unit shall be booked for violating the law and punished accordingly. I would also counsel the parents to send their children to schools for their better future.
I would also bring this matter to the notice of the government as well as local government authorities and NGOs, and request them to set up good schools in the areas for the upliftment of the poor families in the area. (264 words)