The monsoon session of Parliament has started on a very busy note. Within 3 days of the beginning of the session, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have passed 2 bills each. One of the important Bill passed by Rajya Sabha is The Child Labour Amendment Bill, 2012 which seeks to amend The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. The bill will be now taken up by Lok Sabha and if passed it will be sent to President for his assent only after which it will become a law and find its place in the Gazette of India. The bill has attracted criticism from leading child rights organisation CRY.
In this Article we will take you through the amendments which the Bill seeks to make in The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 and the criticism it has attracted.
What is the purpose of the Bill?
In 1986 Parliament had passed The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 which introduced a blanket ban on employing children below the age of 18 years. This triggered widespread protests by trade unions who cited practical difficulties in its implementation. To provide relaxations under the ban, UPA government introduced The Child Labour Amendment Bill, 2012. The NDA government after coming to power made few changes in the amendment bill and reintroduced it in the parliament which was passed by Rajya Sabha.
What are the key provisions of the Bill?
The 1986 act introduced blanket ban on employing children under 18 in any kind of activity. The amendment bill bans employment of children aged below 14 years of age in all kinds of activities but allows children aged between 14-18 years(adolescents) in non-hazardous activities. This paves way for adolescents to work in home-run establishments like shops, grocery stores etc.
Additionally it also allows children aged below 14 years to work in home-run establishments but only after school hours and during vacations. During school hours, no family can employ its children for the job. Through this clause the government seeks to bring this act in line with Right to Education Act which provides for free and compulsory education for children aged between 6-14 years.
What are the penal provisions for the violation of this Act?
If an employer is found to violate the provisions of this Act, he can be imprisoned for a period of 6 months to 2 years and may face fine upto Rs 5000. If a person engages in subsequent offence, the imprisonment shall be for the period of 1-3 years. Additionally the rehabilitation of the rescued child will be the responsibility of the state government.
(Click here to know 5 steps to stop Child Labour in India)
Criticism of the Child Labour Amendment Bill:
The key provisions of Bill have attracted a lot of criticism from leading organisations working for child rights. As per a press release by Child Rights and You( CRY), there are several lacunae in the bill which make it insufficient to properly address child labour issues. The various arguments which have been cited are:
- Compliance with Right to Education Act: As per CRY the Bill does not protect children from the menace of child labour. The new Act is based on the premise that education and work for children can go hand in hand. It further highlights the figures from Census 2011 which says that 33 million children in India in the age group of 0 – 18 are still employed as child labourers.
- Family occupation: According to CRY, allowing children to work in family run enterprises will have a far reaching impact on their overall development. It says such children often work for long hours after school and lose interest in studies finally dropping out, an argument which is supported by the fact that only 33 children out of 100 complete their 12 class in India((Net enrollment Rate (NER), DISE – 2014-2015)). CRY has criticized the government reasoning that such children will not be in “employer-employee” relationship which opens up way for exploitation of children especially due to lack of monitoring mechanism.
- Hazardous occupations: The government has assured that it will revise the list of hazardous occupations. As per CRY the government should define the basis on which such list will be drafted. It wants government to create such list on the basis of social legislations and not labour legislations.
Given the criticism and feedback which this bill has attracted from public and the NGOs like CRY, it would be interesting to see how it is taken up in Lok Sabha. The government might introduce certain amendments especially in case of the list of hazardous occupations. If the Bill is passed with amendments in Lok Sabha, it would again require the approval of Rajya Sabha before finally going to the President for his assent.
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