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 deformed-they will certainly be exhausted, old men and women by the age of forty, likely to be dead by fifty.
Most or all of these children are working under some form of compulsion, whether from their parents, from the expectations attached to their caste, or from simple economic necessity. At least fifteen million of them, however, are workingas virtual slaves.3 These are the bonded child laborers of India. This report is about them
India has 375 million children, more than any other country in the world. Their condition has improved in the last five decades, with child survival rates up, school dropout rates down, and several policy commitments made by the government at the national and international levels. Resource allocations by the State, however, remain quite inadequate to take care of the survival and healthcare needs of infants and children, their education, development and protection.