The government will push a Bill amending the law on child labour in the coming session of Parliament. It was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2012 and then sent to a standing committee for scrutiny. The final shape was cleared by the Cabinet in May. ALSO READ: New child labour norms leave many dissatisfied It proposes a full ban on employment of children below 14 years of age across all industries and processes. However, a child will be allowed to “help” her family in their own businesses after school hours or during vacations, and also work as a child artist. The ministry will continue its ban on children working in a circus. Various activists had criticised the government’s move to allow children to assist their families in work. However, the government has said it will not allow children to work in set-ups where an employer-employee relation is established. “It is important to note that the word used is ‘help’ and this doesn’t include ‘engagement in employment’ or the situation where a relationship of ‘employer-employee’ exists,” says a note prepared by the Union labour ministry on the amendments. ALSO READ: New Child labour law may lead to more child labour in farm sector To allay fears of various activists on the provisions, the ministry had organised a workshop on this early this month. Officials have assured adequate measures to ensure children are not employed in the guise of helping in a family-run enterprise. One of the measures is to confer powers for implementation on a district magistrate. “The district magistrate will be made responsible for enforcement of the law. At present, state or central governments can appoint inspectors. However, if a district magistrate is empowered, the quality of enforcement will improve dramatically,” said an official. Another step is the constitution of a child and adolescent labour rehabilitation fund.
For every rescued child or adolescent, state governments will contribute Rs 15,000 towards the fund, the source said. Apart from this, fine collections from an employer will be added. ALSO READ: Money from penalties in child labour cases should be used for child welfare: Nishit Kumar Offenders would face imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 50,000 for an offence under the new law. Parents or guardians would not be punished for the first offence. The penalty would be a maximum of Rs 10,000 for second and subsequent offences. In India, there are an estimated 4.3 million children working in factories or processes, according to the Census of 2011. However, this has declined sharply from 12.6 million employed as labourers in 2001. To bring the child labour law in tune with international standards, the government has also defined ‘adolescents’ in the new Bill. Children in the age group of 14-18 years will be prohibited from work in hazardous occupations and processes. International Labour Organization conventions prohibit employment of persons below 18 years in work likely to harm health, safety and morals. The present law — Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 — prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in 18 occupations and 65 processes. These include working in an automobile workshop, restaurants, hotels, ports, a circus and some other industrial activities. The Union government wants to align the new law with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which calls for free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years.
The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2012 by the then labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge. Thereafter, it was sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour.