[op-ed snap] Safe childhoods for a safe India


India’s decision to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour and Convention 138 on Minimum Age of Employment, after a long wait of 2 decades

Some of the worst forms of child labour:

  1. Child slavery including the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, and forced recruitment for armed conflict
  2. Child prostitution and their use in pornography
  3. Use of children for illicit activities such as drug trafficking
  4. Exposure to any hazardous work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children

Impacts of child labour:

  1. About 4.3 million children wake up to a day of labour and not school
  2. Another 9.8 million are officially out-of-school
  3. Child labour, thus, perpetuates illiteracy and poverty
  4. It is the root cause of organised crimes such as human trafficking, terror and drug mafia

Why so late?

  1. Our failure to ratify the two conventions, which are two of the eight core labour conventions, despite being a founder-member of the ILO, reflected poorly on us as a nation
  2. The bottlenecks in ratifying the conventions were:
  3. Addressing forced or compulsory recruitment of children, and
  4. Appropriately raising the age of employment in hazardous occupations from 14 to 18 years
  5. Consequent to the passing of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 by the Indian Parliament prohibiting the employment of children up to 14 years of age, and children up to 18 years of age in hazardous occupations, it was imperative that we ratified Conventions 182 and 138

What after ratification?

  1. As a matter of urgency, the government will take immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour
  2. Under the provisions of the ILO Conventions 182 and 138, India will not adhere to a fixed deadline by which the worst forms of child labour must be eliminated
  3. It will ultimately depend on the level of moral courage, public concern, social empathy, political will and the implementation of resources invested in the development and protection of children

What to expect now?

  1. We cannot alter the circumstances overnight. To achieve great reforms, one must continue to move in a singular direction with sincerity.
  2. Our government has shown steadfastness and strong resolve to uphold the rights of our children, and so must we. Investment in children is an investment in the future
  3. Safe childhoods for a safe India


Signing these conventions can be asked in prelims or an essay on child labour or a mains question on the same can be expected.

Ending child labour by 2025 farcical

  1. Global leaders will this month pledge to end by 2025, as part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve the lives of the poorest.
  2. India has introduced laws to protect children and ensure their schooling, as well as a range of social welfare schemes.
  3. Census data shows there were 4.35 million labourers aged between five and 14 in 2011 against 12.66 million a decade ago.
  4. International Labour Organization (ILO) report puts the number of child workers in India aged between 5-17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally.
  5. More than half are in agriculture, toiling in cotton, sugarcane and rice paddy fields where they are often exposed to pesticides and risk injury from sharp tools and heavy equipment.
  6. Children who help their family or family businesses can work outside school hours, and those in entertainment or sports can work provided it does not affect their education.
  7. The government said the exceptions are aimed at striking a balance between education and India’s socio-economic reality.
  8. Allowing children to help parents in family work also provides skills development for the child and succour for the child as well as the poor parents.

Child labour increased by 53% in urban India: CRY Report

  1. Analysis by Child Rights and You (CRY) – There has been a significant increase in working children in the age group of 5-9 years.
  2. In urban areas while the number of working girls rose by 240%, it increased by 154% for working boys.
  3. But why? Attributed to increased migration – seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors.

Child Labour in the garment sector – 70% girls

“It is perturbing and shameful that children’s engagement in informal labour, including in the garment industry, which has also contributed to the rising rate of school drop-outs, continues to be a sad reality in the national capital.”

Over 8000 children are employed in the garments industry in the National Capital alone, and 70% of them are girls.

[cd explains] Catchup on the Child Labour Law ammendments


[op-ed snap] Right to have a childhood

  1. Case in point – Cabinet’s approval of a set of amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
  2. One of the amendments proposes to ban the employment of children < 14 years in all occupations except family enterprises.
  3. This is in contradiction with Article 21-A & the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.
  4. The law potentially opens loopholes that will sustain or even encourage child labour, creating a regulatory nightmare.
  5. ‘Family enterprises’ fall in the unorganised sector.
  6. May adversely affect girl children who are often forced into domestic work.

Cabinet clears changes to Child Labour Act

  1. Children below the age of 14 allowed to work in select ‘non-hazardous’ family enterprises.
  2. The prohibition on child labour would not apply if they were helping the family in fields, forests and home-based work after school hours or during vacations.
  3. Child right activists, however, have opposed the move, saying the proposal could be used to deny education to the girl child.
  4. Family businesses have been given a wide definition and cover any job, profession, or business performed primarily by family members.

Contradictions in law – Who is a child?

  1. Different Acts continue to define “child” differently.
  2. While the RTE Act 2009 & CLPRA 2012 define a child as 14-year-old, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 considers this to be 18 years.
  3. CPLRA = Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

New Bill for total ban on child labour

  1. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment (CLPRA) Bill is pending since December 2012.
  2. The proposed amendments to the Act will for the first time ban employment of children below 14 years in any occupation.
  3. This will bring the law in consistency with the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.
  4. The 1986 law prohibits employing children only in certain occupations such as mines, work in hazardous process and with inflammable substances or explosives.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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