Despite booking more than 1,802 employers for using children as labourers over the past year, the administration has failed to impose mandatory penalties on defaulters. Only 152 employers have so far submitted the required fine of Rs 20,000, sources said.
Over the past year, the state's labour department rescued 1,959 child labourers. For every child found engaged in labour, the violator is supposed to to deposit Rs 20,000 as fine under the Child Labour Rehabilitation Fund.
"So far, nearly 900 employers have not deposited this requisite fine causing a loss to state exchequer. This opens up loopholes in the implementation of law for the employers," said Dinesh Kumar, president Bachpan Bachao, a non-governmental organisation.
He said that in a reply to their submission before Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), it came out that from 2010-2012, 180 challans were issued.
However, the labour department collected a fine of only Rs 4.02 lakh. Assistant labour commissioner Satnam Singh said, "We have very limited powers vested with us. For the recovery of fine, we give our recommendation to the district administrator for further action."
"We do our best to make people aware of the law prohibiting child labour. We launch specials seminars and earmark a special week for our schemes and projections. This year, we are organizing our programmes from June 18 to June 24."
"The problem lies with the system as too many departments are involved in this Act. The labour department, police, education department, health department and the social welfare department deals with different aspects of the rescued children, so the future of rescued children is generally bleak and dim," said Dinesh Kumar.
"Our NGO have notified nearly 7, 000 children involved in work in the illegal ways during the last one year and with the help of administration we put around 250 raids but the procedures and technicalities are so complex, one easily skips out from the ambit of law," he added.
Punjab Labour Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani had said recently that the state government was committed to provide jobs in government or semi-government sector to one person of the family to the family of each rescued child labourer.
"We have asked the district collectors concerned to collect the pending fine from remaining 895 defaulter employers as soon as possible," he said.