Child labour is one of the most debated topics. After a long time, amendment bill to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 has been passed. The topic is important as despite making stricter norms for regulating child labour, the bill suffers from many flaws.
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).
Constitutional Safeguards for Children
- The constitution provides various safeguards for children which are as follows:
- Article 15(3) gives the power to the State to enact laws to protect children.
- Article 21A provides free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14.
- Article 24 prohibits employment of children under the age of 14 years in hazardous industries.
- Article 39 (e) provides that the State shall direct its policy to ensure that the tender age of children is not abused.
- Article 45 provides that State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.
- 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 Bill
- 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 child does not get hampered.
- 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).
- The central government may add or omit any hazardous occupation from the list included in the Bill.
- 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.
- The Bill proposes relaxed penal provisions for parents. In case of parents being repeat offenders, it proposes a fine of 10000 rupees.
- It empowers the government to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children and adolescents are prohibited.
- It also sets up a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund to be set up under the Act for rehabilitation of children and adolescents.
- The amendments intend to preserve Indian art and craft by enabling parents with traditional skills to pass them on to their children.
- 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.
- It prescribes more stringent penalty for Violators and high term of jail and fine with non bailable charges.
- 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.
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, inflable 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 entertainment industry. Most of child labour is in work with family members. Not defining the nature and time limitation will act as an main obstruction to their educational endeavour.
Non-uniform implementation :
List of hazardous factories can be amended by the state government, thus, leading to 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 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.
- Child are future of a country and their holistic development must be the sole aim of a country and this requirement becomes more important for a developing country like India which has a significant part of its population in the working age. It is essential that the loopholes in the act are be removed and sufficient steps are taken for effective prohibition and rehabilitation of child stuck in various industries as workers.
- In the context of the socio-economic realities of India and the preservation of the social fabric and learning of traditional occupations, the new Act tweaked the law in such a way that children are readily available for employment. It will push more children into labour and make them subjects of exploitation at the labour market.
- Though the increased penalty and rehabilitation fund are welcome inclusions which will act as deterrent and provide relief to child labour. However, the amended Act, display a lack of national commitment to abolishing all forms of child labour and do not resonate with the constitutional objective of elimination of child labour in India.
Q.1) What are the merits of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 over the previous child labour regulations. Do you think it will act as a deterrent to child labour?
Q.2) Though, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 is a step in right direction, but, by institutionalising child labour in family-based occupations under the age of 14 years and reducing the number of hazardous occupations, India has failed its children. Do you agree? Discuss.