"Apart from nearly 18 hazardous trades and about 65 processes, other works involving children are exempted under Sections 8 to 11 of the Act" said Labour Department official

Most establishments from where child workers are being rescued are now being sealed as per a recent Delhi High Court order.

A senior Labour Department official said on Saturday that ever since the High Court’s May order, in which it had directed the sealing of all those premises from where child workers are rescued, the Department has been getting such premises sealed through the area Sub-Divisional Magistrates or the Tehsildars.

He said it is also pertinent to note that not all cases of child labour are punishable under the law. The Child Labour Actprohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous operations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others.  He said the Act covers children up to the age of 14.

“Apart from nearly 18 hazardous trades and about 65 processes, other works involving children are exempted under Sections 8 to 11 of the Act. But they also specify the working conditions for the children.”

Stating that children cannot be made to work for over six-and-half hours a day and have to be mandatorily given a rest after every two hours of work, the official said these rules were seldom followed.

It was a Division Bench comprising Justice A. K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw which had also directed the Delhi Government to file a status report by July 30 on the matter along with the details of the rescue operations and rehabilitation plans.

“In pursuance of the court directives, we have been actively carrying out raids against establishments and premises engaging child workers,” said the official.

Stating that child labour was basically a “social evil,” the official said the Right to Education Act has also made it mandatory for every child to have access to schools and education. Therefore, to discourage employment of children, raids are being mounted by the Labour Department along with officials of Revenue Department, Delhi Police, Department of Health, Municipal Corporation and NGO representatives.

“Each of these departments play a different role. We also videograph or photograph the raids wherever possible as evidence to prove the guilt of the establishments being raided.”

The official said the District Task Forces, comprising members of these departments and groups, have been carrying out raids across Delhi.

The problem of child labour has been compounded by issues such as growth in population, dependence of families on the incomes of their children or their inability to support the young ones, the demand for cheap labour and the fact that children are seen as docile workers who do not know about their rights and who, for fear of being beaten up, put up with long hours of work. Incidentally, the offence of employing children is bailable and most often those guilty of engaging child labourers get away by payment of a mere penalty.

President of Shakti Vahini, an NGO engaged in rescue and rehabilitation of child workers, Ravi Kant said the time has come to redraft the old, weak Child Labour Act as it neither has prosecution value nor provides provisions for proper rehabilitation. “Even now the reliance is more on the Juvenile Justice Act because of its stronger provisions.”

He said the child labour law was now in conflict with the Constitution, as under the Right to Education Act, there should be a complete ban on child labour whereas it only prohibits it in parts.

“The Government should also take a firm stand in the matter. The Act only deals with children up to 14 years of age leading other adolescents up to 18 years prone to all kinds of exploitation while being employed as domestic or other workers.”

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