A recent study reveals that a child below the age of 15 in the entertainment industry in India, works for more than 12 hours a day and casting agencies are violating The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (CALPRA) that prohibits engagement of children in all occupations.
In 2019, India’s Media and Entertainment industry was valued at Rs. 1.67 trillion from which children (up to 15 years of age) make up nearly 30% share of “impressions”, which means that they account for a significant portion of those consuming films and television (regardless of the platform), as per the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries.
A study titled ‘Child Artists in India’ by Child Rights and You, a non governmental organisation that works towards ensuring children’s rights suggests that the overall number of child artists is estimated to be between 6,059 and 12,334 based on Media and Entertainment Skills Council estimates for 2017 and Census of India 2011 respectively.
There are no precise statistics available on the estimate of child artists in the country, a sample of seven casting agencies that contained a total of 41,392 profiles of artists online (across India), suggested that 24.9% were classified as child actors (i.e., under the age of 15). There were nearly 3,752 profiles of female child actors listed on these casting agency portals, and 4,642 profiles of male child actors. The portal search also suggests that 8.7% of all male actors are child actors, and 15.7% of all female actors are under the age of 18, the study reveals.
While it is clearly mentioned in CALPRA, 1986, that no child shall be allowed to work for more than five hours in a day, and for not more than three hours without rest. The study has found that the work shift stretches to 12-13 hours for six days a week by production houses because guardians often do not interfere in the scheduling.
The provisions of CALPRA also state, atleast 20% of the income earned by the child from the production or event is to be directly deposited in a fixed deposit account in a nationalised bank in the name of the child which may be credited to her/him on attaining majority. However, the study states the money is being utilised completely on the families. In cases where the child artist is the sole breadwinner of the family or the family has come from outside Mumbai, keeping 20% of the payment in a fixed deposit is highly unlikely.
Cine and TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA), is governed by an elected committee that works on an honorary basis and it has a register to maintain a log of complaints and they have come across cases where the parents have discontinued formal education of child artists. Since education is looked at as the means to get employment in the future, when child artists get employment at a young age, their parents feel that it is their craft as an artist that needs to be worked on rather than their formal education.