The existing child labour laws are going to have a tremendous make over as the Union cabinet approved a proposal regarding the same on Wednesday. The proposal insists banning employment of children of less than 14 years of age in all kinds of commercial enterprises. Already, a Child Labour Prohibition Act exists in the country that came into being in 1986. According to the Child Labour Prohibition Act, children below 14 years of age are banned employment in only dangerous industries.
However, the Cabinet has given an exception to work done in family enterprises and farmlands by children below 14 years. Also, the proposal does not affect children working as artistes in the entertainment industry, like ads, films, TV serials etc., but circus. But, the Cabinet has made it clear that such work should not affect the children’s education. The work should be done only after school or during the vacations. The proposal is in coordination with Right to Education Act, according to which children between 6 to 14 years of age must go to schools.
Cabinet has banned adolescents, aged between 14 and 18 years, from working in dangerous circumstances such as chemical factories, mines etc. Those who violate the law are going to get stricter punishment than before. It’s the employers, rather than the parents who will get punished even for first violation.
If the parents repeat the offence, they will be fined up to Rs. 10,000. Penalty for employers for the first offence has been raised two and half times-from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 50,000. The child right activists have demanded a complete ban on child labour. But, the cabinet has made it clear that they do not wish to change the system where children get to learn various jobs from their parents.
In large families, children can help their parents in jobs like farming, artisanship etc. they can learn the basics of an occupation while continuing their education. The proposal means to strike a balance between education for children and truth of socio- economic conditions.
However, child right activists do not support that. According to them, family enterprises that include matchbox making, gem polishing etc. are in high demand of child labourers. Also, the new amendment can be used to deny girls of their right to be educated, as they remain doing household work.