[Burning Issue] Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act

Why in News?

The Parliament has amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and passed Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 in July 2016.

What is Child Labour?

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development (International Labour Organization).

Key Statistics of Child Labour in India

  1. 1 in every 11 children in India works to earn a living, according to statistics by Action Aid India
  2. There are five states which are India’s biggest child labour employers-Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as per data given out by save children NGO.
  3. National capital Delhi is responsible for a share of 1 million child labour alone.
  4. A recent analysis by CRY of census data in the country shows that the overall decrease in child labour is only 2.2 per cent year on year, over the last 10 years.
  5. Also it has revealed that child labour has grown by more than 50 percent in urban areas.
  6. There are 33 million child labourers between the ages of 5 – 18 years in INDIA as per census 2011 data and 10.13 million between the ages of 5- 14 years.
  7. Considering that there are 444 million children India under the age of 18, they form 37 percent of the total population in the country.

Current Scenario of Child Labour

  1. India is one of the leading countries in Asia has 33 million children employed in various forms of child labour.
  2. India yet to ratify the Minimum age convention 1973 (No 138) of the International labour organization (ILO) that lays down ground rules for employment of minors across the globe.
  3. According to a Live mint report ,the government last year amended child labour laws to allow children below 14 to work in family businesses and the entertainment industry (excluding circuses ) in order to create” a balance between the need for education for a child and reality of the socio-economic condition and social fabric of the country”.
  4. The amendment modified the definition of adolescents- to children between 14 and 18 years of age and barred them from working in any hazardous industries only.

Constitutional Safeguards for Children 

The constitution provides various safeguards for children which are as follows:

  1. Article 15(3) gives the power to the State to enact laws to protect children.
  2. Article 21A provides free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14.
  3. Article 24 prohibits employment of children under the age of 14 years in hazardous industries.
  4. Article 39 (e) provides that the State shall direct its policy to ensure that the tender age of children is not abused.
  5. Article 45 provides that State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.
  6. Article 47 provides that it is the duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve public health.

Salient features of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act Bill

  1. The Bill proposes a ban on employment of children below 14 years in all occupations except in family business and in entertainment industry provided education of the child does not get hampered.
  2. It prohibits employment of adolescents (a person between 14 and 18 years of age) in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
  3. The central government may add or omit any hazardous occupation from the list included in the Bill.
  4. It enhances the punishment for employing any child in an occupation and for employing an adolescent in a hazardous occupation. For the first time, the fine has been increased from 20000 to 50000 Rs and 6 months to 2 years imprisonment. For repeat offenders, the offence is cognizable and proposes a punishment of 1-3 years.
  5. The Bill proposes relaxed penal provisions for parents. In case of parents being repeat offenders, it proposes a fine of 10000 rupees.
  6. It empowers the government to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children and adolescents are prohibited.
  7. It also sets up a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund to be set up under the Act for rehabilitation of children and adolescents.

Arguments in Favour

  1. The amendments intend to preserve Indian art and craft by enabling parents with traditional skills to pass them on to their children.
  2. The setting up of a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund will help to improve the condition of the children and sponsor education for them.
  3. It prescribes a more stringent penalty for Violators and high term of jail and fine with non-bailable charges.
  4. It gives more autonomy to various institutions involved in child labour protection rehabilitation and redevelopment y empowering the government to make periodic inspection of places.

Arguments in Against

  • Reversing the gains

In 1986, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act had after much discussion and expansion included 83 occupations. The new amendment reverses the gain by bringing down the list of hazardous occupations for children to include just mining, inflammable substances and explosives.

  • Open discretion of government authorities

Further, the occupations listed as hazardous can be removed, according to Section 4 — not by Parliament but by government authorities at their own discretion. This leaves it to open discretion.

  • Promoting family labour

It allows child labour in “family or family enterprises” or allows the child to work in the entertainment industry. Most of the child labour is in work with family members. Not defining the nature and time limitation will act as a main obstruction to their educational endeavour.

  • Non-uniform implementation

List of hazardous factories can be amended by the state government, thus, leading to the non-uniform implementation of this act.

  • Making lawful what was unlawful earlier

It allows that the children may work after school hours or during vacations, thus, actually making lawful a large part of child work that was earlier unlawful.

  • Roughly defined purpose of Fund

Funding from the child rehabilitation fund is not directly linked to education and development rather it aims towards these goals without any mentioned method thus not giving any specific list of objectives.

Way forward

  1. The Constitution of India mandates the state to secure a healthy childhood to all its children by virtue of Article 21-A, 24, 39(e), (f), 41 and 45.
  2. Despite this, slavery is the keynote of industrial life in India and child labour prevails in one or the other nook and corner.
  3. Even after the new Amendment Act, the blueprint for tackling child labour has multifarious lacunas and is not conducive in providing the fullest extent of justice to its children. The complete abolishment of child labour is still a distant dream.
  4. It is high time to realize that child labour is not just a social issue but a moral one. The cardinal right to free and compulsory education to children is a fundamental right and child labour is antagonistic to this basic right of a child.

Practice Question

Critically examine the Key features of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act?

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