Parliament approved a bill on Tuesday that allows employers to hire teenagers above 14 years of age for jobs not considered as hazardous.
During the debate on the bill in Lok Sabha, BJP lawmaker Varun Gandhi criticized his own government’s bill saying, “It’s not leniency, but lunacy.”
The proposed law will lift the 40-year ban on employing adolescents under 18—in any job. The amendments to the child labour bill were considered after trade unions and political parties highlighted how poor families are facing problems as their children can’t earn money. But Gandhi questioned how the authorities can determine if someone was a repeat offender. He also demanded that the list of hazardous industries must include construction works.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, passed in Rajya Sabha last week, got support from parties in the Lower House after hanging in balance for four years. Activists had panned the subsequent government’s move to allow children under 18 years to work as they feared it will drive them away from schools.
The UPA regime had brought a bill, but it lapsed at the end of the last Lok Sabha. The NDA government changed the UPA’s proposed bill to absolve the parents from first-time violation of law. During the Lok Sabha debate, Opposition leaders insisted that onus of employing child in a non-hazardous job must lie with employers. Children can work in family-run establishments like a grocery store but can’t work in a chemical factory.
After the bill’s passage in Parliament, the government will send it to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent.
The proposed law, while giving relaxation, makes it mandatory that the child can help his or her family only after school hours or during vacations. During school days, no family can allow children to work.
If found guilty, an employer may pay up to Rs 50,000 as penalty and face six months to two years imprisonment. For repeat offence, term of imprisonment will be up to three years.