There is no universally accepted definition of child labour. Generally speaking, a work done by a child under the age of 14 years is said to be child labour. India has the highest number of child labourers and the number continues to grow. They are estimated to be over 17 million.
Child labour means lost childhood. Childhood is the most sensitive part of the life of every human being. The impressions received in this period of life are indelible. Psychologically, the character of a person develops during this part of life. Wordsworth has wisely stated, "Child is the father of the man." Children all over the world are the future of mankind. What they get from society today will be returned in the same coin when they are grown up. In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, our own Constitution provides certain rights to children and prohibits child labour. Article 24 prohibits children below the age of 14 years from being employed.
Article 39 (e) and 39 (f) also take care of children. Article 21 A added by the 86th Amendment Act 2002, provides that state shall arrange for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years. This very amendment has also added Article 51 A (k). It has made incumbent upon parents or guardians to provide education to their children.
Education is the most potent tool to combat the evil of child labour. In 2010, the government adopted the Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE). The government is also spending a lot on Mid-day Meal Scheme with a view to universalizing primary education. For all these measures, a study by Child Rights and You (CRY), reveals that 35million children in the 6-14 age groups are out of schools.

Short Essay on Child Labour

Compared to many developing countries, children from  5.2% of the total labour force in India. Poor system of education and poverty are the two chief source of child labour. Campaign for 'Common School System' blames the miserable and deplorable quality of education for increasing child labour in India. The present system imparts minimal skills to children in spite of tall claims on paper. The State Governments have failed to impart meaningful education to children. Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says that most laws on education do not cover 15-18 year age-group. Most of the children are dropouts and unskilled and end up as part of a casual and untrained workforce. This sector of labour force is fed mostly by child labourers.
Secondly, poverty forces children of all age-groups into work to supplement their family's income. Sometimes parents mortgage their child's labour to local money lenders and wealthy families. Moreover, child labour is cheap and safe. Children are trouble-free and their wages are no problem. Hunger and poverty drive these children to do any kind of menial or hazardous task.
The government formulated national policy on child labour in 1987. A National Authority on Elimination of Child Labour was set up in 1994. There is a large number of laws to check employment of children as labourers in households, factories, roadside dhobis, tea shops, but the problem remains unabated. A nation that cannot look after its children have no right to dream of growing its stature in the comity of nations.