Total ban on child labour soon


Law to ban employment of children below 14 years of age in all commercial enterprises, except in family-owned non-hazardous sectors.

In a significant overhaul of child labour laws, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal to ban employment of children under 14 years in all kinds of commercial enterprises. The original Child Labour Prohibition Act of 1986 banned employment of children below 14 in only 18 hazardous industries.

However, keeping in mind the ‘social fabric’ of the country, the Cabinet has made an exception for work done in family enterprises and on farmlands provided it is done after school hours and during vacations. The proposed amendment Bill will be in sync with the Right to Education Act that guarantees children between 6 and 14 the right to go to schools.

Also, children working as artists in audio-visual entertainment industry, including advertisement, films, television serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities, except the circus, have been granted exemption provided that “such work does not affect the school education.”

The Cabinet has barred employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years) in hazardous occupations and processes like chemicals and mines. The changes provide for stricter punishment for employers for violation. While there is no penalty for parents for the first offence, the employer will be liable for punishment even for first violation.

In case of parents, repeat offenders may be penalised with a fine up to Rs. 10,000. In case of first offence, the penalty for employers has been increased up to two and half times — from up to Rs. 20,000 to up to Rs. 50,000. While child rights activists had pushed for a complete ban on child labour, the government clarified that it did not want to change a system where children learn several occupations from their parents.

Striking a balance

“In a large number of families, children help their parents in their occupations like agriculture, artisanship, etc. and while helping the parents, children also learn the basics of occupations.” Therefore, it said the amendment sought to strike a balance between the need for education for a child and the reality of the socio-economic conditions.

Child rights activists had argued that the definition of family enterprises can include matchbox making, carpet weaving and gem polishing industries where child labour is in high demand. They have also argued that the new norms can be used to deny education to the girl child who will be stuck with household work.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 1:22:31 AM |

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