On one hand, India is cherishing the tag of the strongest growing economy in the world, I t is becoming the home to the largest number of child labourers in the world on the other hand. Child labor is a global problem and it is prevailing in almost all developing countries. Poverty and lack of social security are the main causes behind this social evil.
The child labour amendment bill, 2016 is a welcome move; it absolutely prohibits “the engagement of children below 14 years in all occupations and of adolescents in hazardous occupation. It seeks to prohibit employment of children below 14 years of age in all occupations except where they can help their families after school hour so that they can enjoy their right to education up to 14 years. Striking a balance between the need for education for a child and the reality of the socio-economic condition and social fabric in the country this provision has been introduced. Sadly, in developing countries, working children are essential for survival of many families. Income from children can be huge supportive for poor families.
However, it suffers many defects. The broadened definition of family and family enterprises is a cause for concern. The definition of ‘family owned’ enterprises not only covers the child’s parents and siblings but also child’s parents’ siblings. The family business may include business of not only parents of child but also other relatives. This provision is open to misuse. Regulation is going to be big problem. Due weak regulatory framework, a contractor can employ the entire family to work. By allowing children below the age 14 years to work in family enterprises, it has actually taken away the basic protection for some of the most vulnerable workers. According to several law makers this provision is a loophole.
It has been approved to ensure that education of children in 6-14 age group is not compromised but the dilution of the original act will undermine the very purpose of RTE. It is not precise enough to specify the hours of engagement of child in family run business. Children will get little to no time to study or play. This provision will surely be detrimental to children’s health and their aptitude for leaning.
Another provision of this Act prohibits employment of adolescents (defined as children between the ages 14 to 18) to work in hazardous industry. It drastically reduced the list of hazardous substances from 83 to 3- mining, inflammable substances and hazardous processes. Since the list certainly is not exhaustive it could be misused. This actually gives legal sanction for the employment of adolescent children in all other kind of hazardous industries. Working in such industry at such tender age shall no doubt have adverse effect on health.
Child labor is indeed a major cause of poverty. Child labour increases, adult unemployment which in turn forces them to put their children to work generating vicious circle. An increase in employment opportunity for adults would help in overcoming the problem of poverty and child labor. We must make sure that their families can either make enough income without them working and they have access to adequate educational opportunities. It is commendable that the government banned employment of a child (under 14 years) in all occupations. The increased penalty and rehabilitation fund are welcome inclusions which will act as deterrent and provide relief respectively. However Child Labour Amendment Act, 2016 has some flaws that need to be addressed in order to curb the child labour from its roots.