Insights into Issues: Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act
Constitutional Provisions Relating to Child Labour:
- Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous industries. Allows their employment in non hazardous industries . Subsequently , government passed Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 which prohibited employment in 14 industries and regulated employment condition in the rest
- Article 39(e) directs the state to ensure that health of workers be protected and children not to be exploited
Provisions of the Amended Bill
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 4, 2012 by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mallikarjun Kharge.
- The Bill seeks to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which prohibits the engagement of children in certain types of occupations and regulates the condition of work of children in other occupations.
- The earlier Act prohibits employment of children below 14 years in certain occupations such as automobile workshops, bidi-making, carpet weaving, handloom and power loom industry, mines and domestic work. In light of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the Bill proposes a blanket ban on employment of children below 14 years in all occupations except in “own account enterprises” i.e. family business and in entertainment industry provided education of child does not get hampered
- The Bill adds a new category of persons called “adolescent”. An adolescent means a person between 14 and 18 years of age. The amended Act prohibits employment of adolescents 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
- The Bill enhances the punishment for employing any child in an occupation. It also includes penalty for employing an adolescent in a hazardous occupation. The punishment for those employers, employing children for the first time, the fine has been increased from 20000 to 50000 Rs and 6months to 2 years imprisonment. For repeat offenders the offence is cognizable (i.e. arrest can be made without warrant) and proposes a punishment of 1-3 year
- The Bill proposes relaxed penal provisions for parents. In case of parents being repeat offenders, it proposes a fine of 10000 rupees.
- The government may confer powers on a District Magistrate to ensure that the provisions of the law are properly carried out.
- The Bill 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 adolescent employed
Data on Child Labour
- There are 33 million child labourers in India, according to UNICEF. As per the 2011 census, 80 per cent of them are Dalits, 20 per cent are from the Backward Classes
- According to Global Slavery Index, India has the 4th largest estimated prevalence of modern slavery in proportion to its population. 1.4% of India’s population live in condition of modern slavery including sex work, domestic work, child labour, manual labour or even forced marriages
- According to SECC 2011, 4 million children in working children in age group of 5-14 years
Criticism of the Amended Act:
- Firstly, it has slashed the list of hazardous occupations for children from 83 to include just mining, explosives, and occupations mentioned in the Factory Act. This means that work in chemical mixing units, cotton farms, battery recycling units, and brick kilns, among others, have been allowed. Further, even the ones listed as hazardous can be removed, according to Section 4 — not by Parliament but by government authorities at their own discretion.
- Secondly, section 3 in Clause 5 allows child labour in “family or family enterprises” or allows the child to be “an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry”. Since most of India’s child labour is caste-based work, with poor families trapped in intergenerational debt bondage, this refers to most of the country’s child labourers. The clause is also dangerous as it does not define the hours of work, it simply states that children may work after school hours or during vacations.
- They also contravene the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Minimum Age Convention and UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a signatory. According to UNICEF, a child is involved in child labour if he or she is between 5 and 11 years, does at least one hour of economic activity, or at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week.
- One-fifth of the child labourers rescued worked with their families. If the new law was in place they wouldn’t be rescued.
- Regulation is going to be a big challenge, as it will be difficult to determine whether a particular family is running an enterprise, or whether some faceless owner has employed a single family to circumvent the law. The fallout will be a higher dropout rate. They may go to school for some years, concurrently work with their families, and graduate to being full-time adolescent workers, without completing elementary education
- According to UN Convention on Rights of Child (CRC) every child has a right to be heard. In the International Working Group on Child Labour whi9ch came up with Kundapura declaration stated that children be consulted, their products recognized, work be regulated and made safe, education, health and security be provided. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in the current legislation. The Act follows the least resistance path which will open a pandora’s box