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Satyarthi backs new child labour law

Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi  

‘Rules notified recently by government have set right anomalies in earlier Act’

Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who had earlier criticised the new child labour law, has supported the new framework, saying the fresh rules to support the law have addressed all the concerns.

“The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Amendment) Act, 2016, had some lacunae when it was enacted, but the rules notified recently by the government have addressed the weaknesses,” Mr. Satyarthi said in an interview to The Hindu on the eve of World Day Against Child Labour. “The new rules have made it a progressive law.”

Various child rights activists, including Mr. Satyarthi, had earlier criticised the law, enacted in July last year, for reducing the number of hazardous occupations from 83 to three and allowing children to assist in family enterprises. “I was not happy earlier. But with the new rules, the issues have been properly addressed. Earlier, the interpretation was that any child could help in family enterprises. But if you look at the rules, it’s possible only in a few occupations, and hazardous occupations have also been clearly defined,” said Mr. Satyarthi, who won the Nobel Prize in 2014 for his work on reducing child labour.

Even international agencies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) had criticised the government over the two concerns flagged by the Nobel laureate.

The 2016 law prohibits employment of children aged below 14. However, it allows adolescents (aged 14-18) to work in non-hazardous occupations and children to assist their families in businesses after school hours. The previous law allowed children to be employed in family enterprises without restriction.

The Labour and Employment Ministry on June 2 notified the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules, 2017, which state that children can help in family enterprises only for three hours after school hours. Children could not extend any help between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. It also laid out conditions on which children could offer help to their families.

Mr. Satyarthi lauded the government’s move to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on child labour. This would ensure compliance with the new law, he said. “There has been a paradigm shift in the government’s stance from the past when it said those raising the cause of child labour had a western agenda. Now, the government has agreed to global scrutiny of child labour,” he said.

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