One of the reasons, I think, the West makes such a fuss about child labor is that West wants Indian families to have less children, as they start thinking that children are a burden.
Traditionally, children have worked as apprentices in whatever work the family was involved in - farming, herding, craftsmanship, textiles, etc. It did not mean that there was no education for these children. There was, that is before the British choked all life out of it. However beyond that, children still use to work as apprentices in their family occupation. How is a child supposed to learn all the tricks of the trade, if he starts his training in the family occupation with 18?
Traditionally families never looked at children as a burden, simply because children while growing up used to both help out with family occupation, and secondarily there was enough extended family support to help out with children when they were young.
So Indians used to have big families, upwards of 6-7 children, sometimes even 11-12.
Western-designed Modernity and its Missionaries however want to tell Indians all that is backward, and a sign of illiteracy, high infant mortality, etc.. From all that what we know of Bharat before the coming of the Islamics and British is that Bharat was in fact Jagatguru, the hub of knowledge, research, health, strength and prosperity. So buying the catchphrase "illiteracy" and "backward" to describe Indians needs a stretch of imagination, but if one knows not about it, then even an ounce of ignorance suffices.
Having large families was a deliberate, well-thought out, rational stance of Indians, of all hues and classes.
But Secularists and Western-inspired "intellectuals" have been trying to destroy the fabric of Hindu society using all sorts of angles
- Smaller families are modern, extended families are passe
- Keeping to traditional family occupations is casteist thinking,
- Upper castes have kept you oppressed, forced you into certain occupations
- Bollywood is all about falling in love, which needs rebelling against small-minded parents
- Hum Do, Hamare Do
- Child Labor is really really wicked, and if you allow it, you are the most horrible parent
- Full Equality of men and women, in all professions
Most of the above points seem so "progressive", but they do so under the premise and propaganda that traditional every thing was completely opposite, and modernity is trying to bring change.
Even traditional Indian society used to find a golden middle and balance the needs of progress of the individual with the responsibilities to family and society.
But Secular politics and West want to paint traditional Indian society with the blackest possible paint, and show that it is the West that brings enlightenment to the stupid Indian masses. More importantly using such propaganda and pushing Indians to adopt such thinking, West has ensured that India does not outgrow it drastically. The sheer human mass in India has always been feared by the West, and cutting down on Indian population has always been a foremost goal. Even as they have preached it, they have done so reminding Indians that it is for the benefit of the planet and paucity of resources in India. The issue that they themselves robbed India of resources is not brought up!
There are justified reasons why our current predicament makes us vulnerable to see merit in these arguments, but that is because we are being told that it is wrong to dream of holding on to our traditional sense of family and at the same time devise social systems, infrastructure and technology which enables us to more easily do so.