A TELEVISION broadcast, which seems to show underage children working on a farm owned by a government minister, has reopened the debate about India's commitment to fighting child labour. The footage was filmed on a field owned by Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, India's rural development minister. Initially the minister denied he was employing children to work in his fields. He told reporters that "the whole episode was stage managed" by television journalists. He did not specify how the reporters had stage managed the report. He later told the station that broadcast the video there was no harm in children doing small jobs on the land.
The "small jobs" ? - The video showed two boys dragging a makeshift plough through a muddy field. They were barefooted and wearing torn, dirty clothing. The boys had rope from the plough, tied around their waists, and a man walked behind them, apparently making sure they kept up a suitable pace.
The farm manager, who is also the brother of the rural development minister, said the boys were working the land due to the rain. Raghuraj Prasad Singh said: "It rained so much this year that the fields are still muddy and oxen and tractors cannot move on them."
The government of India estimates that 11 million children aged between five and 14 are working, but local charitable organisations put the figure at 50 to 60 million - a fifth of the child population. One estimate saying that 20 percent of India's economy is dependent on children under 14.
In October, children as young as 10 were found sewing clothes for the American retailer Gap Inc. in a New Delhi sweat shop. The children said they had been sold to the sweatshop by their impoverished families and were not paid.
"Childhood only happens once. For some it doesn't happen at all." said Save the Children.