As the government moves to ban employment of child below 18 years in hazardous industries, new data puts the government in a poor light over enforcement of existing provisions.
As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, employment of children below the age of 14 in hazardous industries is banned. It includes employing them in roadside eateries and as domestic helps.
The ministry of labour in a reply to a Right To Information application of NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan showed that the state governments provided rehabilitation benefits to just 28 child labourers between 2006 and 2008 even though over 10,000 children were rescued from eateries and homes.
This is latest information available with the Labour ministry on state governments’ enforcement of the ban on employment of children in eateries and as domestic helps, indicating the ministry’s reluctance to push for strict enforcement of the law. “Information on enforcement of Child Labour Prohibition Act can be sought directly from the state governments…information upto 2008 is being provided,” the RTI reply said
Proper rehabilitation of the children rescued from work was considered a key to end child labour in India but the data provided by the government shows it has been the least priority. An apparent reason, according to an official, is reluctance of part of the child to undergo the lengthy and tedious rehabilitation process. “We cannot force the children to join rehabilitation centers,” the official said.
The ministry also found that the detection rate of employment of child labour in these two areas was meager. The state governments claimed that they had conducted over 2,27,612 inspections during the period but there were only 797 cases of employment of child labour.
The reply comes at the time Labour ministry has sought the law ministry’s approval on amending the present law to ban employment of child up to 18 years of age in all hazardous industries.
The government is bringing in the change to meet the provisions of International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention that says that no children below the age of 18 should be employed. And, it cannot happen without amending the Act.
But, the ministry’s own data shows the poor record of the state governments in enforcing the earlier provision. “The change will bring lakhs of working children in 14-18 age group under scrutiny,” said Rakesh Senger of Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
A government official said: “Once the changes are enacted employing any children below the age of 14 will be a criminal offence,” a senior government functionary said, adding that it will help in ensuring that the children in 6-14 age group reach schools.
As per 2001 census, there were 1.29 crore child labourers in India. The data on child labour for 2011 is yet to be released. Employing a child labour can result in jail term of three months and a fine of up to Rs. 20,000 or both.