More than one crore child workers in India will get a new opportunity in life with a law banning employment of children in households, eating joints, teashops, hotels, catering units, hostels, clubs, spas and recreation centres taking effect on Tuesday.
"No child up to the age of 14 years can be employed at such places from this day onwards," a notification by the Labour Ministry said. "It is a much delayed step, yet we welcome it. Providing them access to education will be the first step in that direction and for that the government should bring another legislation ensuring compulsory education for the child workers,” said Ranjan Mohanty, national convener of the Campaign against Child Labour (CACL), an alliance of NGOs.
The violation of this ban imposed under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, would lead to prosecution, penalties and other punitive action, a senior official in the Ministry of Labour said.
Much will depend now on how the government will ensure the effective implementation of this Act. The low conviction rates and poor enforcement mechanisms prohibiting employment of children carried little meaning.
Well meaning law may not change things for child workers
Beginning today, the various government departments are expected to start implementing the new notification banning child labour. But if the government goes about implementing the order in earnest, it may face the hurdle of inadequate infrastructure.
The cramped conditions in government-run homes mean that not many children can be accommodated at one time. In fact, the Delhi Social Welfare Department has informed the Labour Department that it cannot accommodate more than 400 rescued children.
Rescued child labourers are supposed to be rehabilitated and eventually repatriated to their home districts. During the interim period, they will be lodged in state-run homes.
The requirement for such accommodation is expected to go up drastically with the inclusion of children working in eateries, roadside shacks, restaurants and homes as domestic helps.
Accommodation has been identified as a major problem area. The Labour Department has now sought help from not just the social welfare department for arranging accommodation, but also the public works department, education department and the department for personnel and training.