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Employing children below 14 to be an offence

Raising the bar on child labour, the government is set to debar employment of children below the age of 14 in any industry. Only those between 14 to 18 years can be employed except in hazardous industries. Chetan Chauhan reports.

delhi Updated: May 02, 2012 02:22 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Raising the bar on child labour, the government is set to debar employment of children below the age of 14 in any industry. Only those between 14 to 18 years can be employed except in hazardous industries.


The existing Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, allows employment of children of up to 14 years of age in the industries not considered to be hazardous. Hazardous industries include tobacco, stone crushing, catering, mining, cement industry and crackers.

This will change if the government accepts a new set of recommendations of the Labour ministry which aims to tune Indian child labour law with norms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/5/02_05_12-metro12.jpg

The ILO’s convention of child labour seeks to provide minimum age of employment and says that no children below the age of 14 should be employed. India has to abide by the convention as its own domestic law --- Right To Education --- guarantees free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years.

It cannot happen without amending the Child Labour Act, which allows employment of children below 14 years of age. Therefore, the Labour ministry has now circulated a Cabinet note seeking complete ban on any form of child labour.

“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.

The ministry has, however, not accepted the recommendation of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights for defining age of a child as of 18 years on the ground that a large number of poor families are dependant on their children for livelihood.

Therefore, the ministry has proposed that children in 14-18 age group should be allowed to seek work in non-hazardous industries with property safety mechanism.

Employing a child labour can result in jail term of three months and a fine of up to Rs 20,000 or both. NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) will be starting a campaign for child labour free India from next week by seeking support of political parties to approve the proposed amendments. "We will visit political leaders as part of our campaign," said Rakesh Senger of BBA.