Twenty-seven years after the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act came into force, state deputy labour commissioner Sumita Mukherjee pleaded helplessness in curbing child labour blaming lack of infrastructure, poor coordination among various departments and political interference for the same, while pointing out loopholes in the act that opened up escape routes for offenders.
“Everyone blames the labour department for doing nothing to curb child labour. But one should understand that our capabilities are limited.
Section 13 of the CLPR Act states any person is authorised to file a complaint against child labour. The police have a big role to play here and the labour department cannot take sole responsibility for curbing child labour,” Mukherjee said at an event in the city on Tuesday.
Mukherjee remarked that enforcement of the law is often a risky affair as employers and families of child labourers get violent when raids are conducted by the department. She also questioned the process of rehabilitation and the fate of child labourers once their employers are prosecuted.
“Parents of child labourers plea with us that the family would be deprived of food if their children do not work. It is not always possible to overlook their claims. Even if we prosecute their employers, the children would in no way be benefited. Parents send their children to work once matters cool off after a few days.
We lack the manpower to conduct frequent raids at all places,” Mukherjee said.
“Also we lack coordination between various departments such as social welfare and education department to control child labour, probably because their priorities are different,” the deputy labour commissioner said.
Mukherjee also expressed helplessness in curbing child labour in the bidi-making industry rampant in Murshidabad district, pointing to loopholes in the CLPR Act.
“According to the law, family business is not considered hazardous for children. Since most bidi-making enterprises are family businesses, it is not possible to prosecute the employers,” Mukherjee said.
Often political interference, as pointed out by Mukherjee, turns out to be an impediment.