Gather data, devise strategies, change policies and laws comprehensively to stop child labour: Parliamentary panel to Centre

In addition to increase in the amount of fines, stricter punishments, including cancellation of license and attachment of property, are needed to protect the interests of children, panel’s report says

Updated - December 20, 2023 10:57 pm IST

Published - December 20, 2023 10:56 pm IST - New Delhi

The panel said the Ministry of Labour does not conduct any survey to ascertain the number of child labourers across the country. Representational file image.

The panel said the Ministry of Labour does not conduct any survey to ascertain the number of child labourers across the country. Representational file image. | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, headed by senior Biju Janata Dal (BJP) MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, tabled a detailed report on the implementation of the Centre’s policy on child labour in Parliament on December 20. The report, titled ‘National Policy on Child Labour - An Assessment’, states the country has a long way to go in eliminating child labour, and requires changes to the policies and laws that govern the issue. The 582-page report touches upon almost all aspects of the issue, and recommends various Ministries of the Centre and the States take coordinated steps to address it.

The panel has recommended that discrepancies in the criteria for determination of the age of the child in various Acts, as well as the provisions of offence being cognisable/non-cognisable under the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 be examined to ensure they did not lead to any ambiguity or delay in securing justice for aggrieved children.

Also read: Explained | What has India done to address child trafficking?

The panel has also recommended that, in addition to the three-four times increase in the amount of fine, stricter punishment in the form of cancellation of license, attachment of property, etc., needed to be incorporated to protect the interests of children. “This may require amendment in the Act, which the [Union Labour] Ministry should pursue in order to have zero tolerance on child labour,” the report said.

The panel said the number of working children has decreased from 1.26 crore (as per 2001 census) to 1.01 crore (as per 2011 census), and the number of working children in the age group of five-14 years has also decreased from 57.79 lakh (as per 2001 census) to 43.53 lakh (as per 2011 census).

The panel said the Ministry of Labour does not conduct any survey to ascertain the number of child labourers across the country and consider this data as child labour data.

“The Ministry have also categorically stated that no proposal is under their consideration to develop a mechanism to maintain child labour data except depending on census data,” the report said, and urged the Ministry to take up collecting data on children between 14 to 18 years during the next Census exercise with the Ministry of Home Affairs so as to have reliable data on children and adolescents, which would not only help in formulating policies but also devising an action plan for eliminating child labour.

“Since census exercise is conducted after a period of ten years and for 2021, it is yet to commence, the Committee impress upon the Ministry of Labour & Employment to conduct periodic survey particularly in urban areas to identify child labours, as assured by the representatives of the Ministry during oral evidence,” the report added. The panel also asked the Centre to direct States conduct surveys to identify child labour, collect and furnish enforcement data, along with their suggestions to address the problem.

The panel said, in addition to the employer, the accountability of the principal employer and traffickers should be fixed. Considering the prevalence of child labour at present, the panel said, it is practically not possible to meet the international commitment to eliminate child labour by 2025.

“As action taken today will determine the future of children of tomorrow, the Committee impress upon the Ministry to take up the issue in a mission mode and devise a systematic action plan based policy to meet international commitments, which are not only relevant for economic development of the country but will also brighten the image of the country in international forum,” the panel said.

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