2. India is the home to large no. of child labourers in the age group of 0–18 years. Critically examine how far the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2016 will be able to deal with the problem of child labor and suggest some alternative policy measures for improvement.

As per Census 2011, India is home to around 33 million (one in every eleven) child laborers in the age group of 0-18 yrs. This is an appalling figure which points to the deficiencies in the working of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. To address certain issues regarding the practicality of certain provisions and the safety of children, certain amendments were passed.

Recently amended bill:

  • Under 14 yrs: Are allowed to help in family enterprises after school hours and during holidays.
  • Adolescents (14-18 yrs): Prohibits their employment in hazardous occupations. Central government has the power to review the list of hazardous occupations as & when required
  • Punishment & penal provisions: Graded punishments based on the number of times a person commits an offence under the Act and relaxation of the penal provisions for parent offenders.

Though the bill has been passed with the intention of helping family based enterprises and also aid children in learning basics of occupations, the above amendments seem to be institutionalizing child labor in family based occupations and have also limited the list of hazardous occupations. This has invited much criticism:

  • Reducing the list of hazardous occupations to only mines, explosives & those under factories act 1948 would affect the children’s right to learn. Also, factories act 1948 list was meant only for adults, thus leading to contradiction.
  • Allowing children in family enterprise provision might be misused by contractors to disguise child laborers as assistants to adult family members. This would lead to huge problem of regulation.
  • Adolescent workers: Allowing adolescents (14-18) to work in non-hazardous occupations would push school dropouts to start working, thus defeating the actual purpose of the provision.
  • Enforcement: Analysis from Census and Child rights and You (CRY) reveals that child labour (5-14yrs) in the past decades has increased by 53% and the bill doesn’t seem to pay much attention to it.
  • Lack of focus on rural areas where majority of child labour is based.
  • Bill contravenes ILO’s Minimum Age Convention and UNICEF’s convention on Rights of child to which India is a signatory

Alternative measures:

  • Link the provision of subsidies under NFSA, MGNREGA and other benefits to the enrollment and actual attendance of the child in school.
  • Rehabilitation of child labour would more often than not require assuring a steady income for the family – ensuring proper implementation of welfare policies.
  • Ensure that no child is out of school by implementing RTE in its true spirit.
    Need for adequate, easily enforceable regulation
  • Strengthening institutional capacity for child welfare
  • Regular policing of industries that traditionally employ child labors and prompt prosecution of child labour employers
  • Behavioral change – Altering the ideology of ‘more hands means more work’ to ‘more children means more mouths to feed’.

“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”
A strong nation requires investment in children’s education and there is an urgent need to end the endemic of child labour. Though revising the bill after three decades is positive thing but much needs to be done to protect the rights of children who are the future force of economic progress.  

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