In an effort to provide a human touch to the Child Labour Prohibition Act, the government has proposed that a parent will not be booked for the first offence under law the in which punishment — both jail term and penalty — is being increased manifold.
The proposal circulated by the labour ministry says a parent should not be booked for the first offence and action should be taken for subsequent violations.
“A parent may have allowed his child to work, unaware of the law. The same rule cannot apply if he is caught again,” a senior government official said, adding that parents were being given the benefit of doubt.
The reason behind the provision is that child labourers mostly hail from extremely poor families where parents are not educated enough to understand the nuances of law. The provision will also check their possible harassment.
The government also believes that parents should be given a chance to correct themselves, a view child rights activists say will promote child labour rather than curb it.
The amendment bill likely to be introduced in the second part of the Budget session will also increase the fine by over five times from the present Rs 10,000.
For the first offence by the employer, the proposed fine is Rs 50,000 which can be increased to Rs 1 lakh for subsequent offences. The government is also proposing an increase in jail term for repeated offenders for up to two years from the present six months.
There are also plans to set up a district-level fund to provide relief up to Rs 15,000 to each child labour victim. The government has also prescribed a mechanism to ensure the child secures admission to a school and is rehabilitated.
However, those in the field of rehabilitation say unless a system to ensure quick transfer of funds from the state where the child was found working to his native state is worked out, the district-level fund will not do much.