NCPCR to follow State's execution of Minimum Wages Act

Andhra Pradesh being one of the few States to implement the Minimum Wages (MW) Act to discourage child labour, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has sought its execution plan for replication in other States.

The Labour Department has, over the past 15 years, awarded penalty of Rs. 5 crore to employers of 35,000 children from the State under the MW Act. “The prime reason for employing child labour is that children can be paid dismal wages, as against adults who demand a prescribed minimum wage,” says R. Ravi Bhushan Rao, Joint Commissioner of Labour.

“The MW Act empowers authorities to impose penalties up to 10 times the difference between the wage paid and the minimum wage, as compensation to the child. We have enforced the act vigorously to discourage child labour,” he explained. Heavy compensation is awarded under the Act to dissuade employment of child labour as the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation (CLPR) Act does not fully prohibit employment of children across all occupations.

Cases under the MW act are tried in ‘open courts' to further discourage people from employing child labour. “Such methods of handling child labour cases under the Act have been very successful and are unique to the State,” officials said.

While the 2001 census reveals Andhra Pradesh as the second largest employer of child labourers in the country with over 13.63 lakh employed children, labour officials claimed that this figure has come down a great deal with interventions like implementation of MW Act; and that this will be reflected in the yet to be released 2011 census.

However, of the 36, 621 incidents of child labour identified, only 13,774 have been rehabilitated and admitted into schools in 15 years. While most children are forced into work by their parents to ease financial burden, most ‘rescued' children are being sent back to their parents who again put them into employment.

“Of over 36,000 cases identified, there are several instances where the same child has been rescued over four times. As we cannot forcibly keep children away from their parents, the problem has to be addressed at a much larger level by providing adequate adult employment,” point out officials.

The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation (CLPR) Act, 1986 only prohibits employment of children under certain specified ‘hazardous' occupations. The Act does not prohibit employment of children in the ‘non-hazardous' sector; but processes and regulates their working conditions.