New Delhi, Bhubaneswar, August 28, 2012: In a significant move to curb the rampant spread of child labour across the country, the Government of India is set to ban the all forms of child labour under the age of 14 years, making the employment of children below 14 years a criminal offense. The Union cabinet of India approved the Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act today putting a blanket ban on employing anybody below 18 years in hazardous occupation. Such hazardous occupations have also been re-classified in line with the increase in the minimum age of child labour from 14 to 18 years.
However, it will allow employing children only between 14-18 years in non-hazardous industries like forest gathering, child care etc. Children between 14-18 years have been defined as "adolescents" in the amended act. Employing a child below 14 years in any kind of occupation is set to become a cognizable offence, punishable with a maximum three years imprisonment or fine up to a maximum of Rs. 50,000 (~US$ 900).
Ministry officials said that banning any employment of children below 14 years will go a long way in enforcing the Right to Education Act, 2009 which mandates free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6-14 years.
Pursuing justice and policy changes through the courts both Supreme Court of India and the High Courts for protection of children’s rights is another strategy that has reaped benefits in favour of strong legislations and child friendly policies.
Child Labour Free India Campaign, by the djss and Global March has strongly encouraged and demanded amendments in the Child Labour Act, all of which have been accepted by the government:
|All forms of employment should be prohibited for children up to the age of completion of education in accordance to the Right to Education Act;
|All forms of child labour prohibited fro children under 14 years of age
|Employment of children up to 18 years of age in any hazardous occupation or processes or any economic activity which is dangerous for children must be prohibited in conformity with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000;
|Children between 14 and 18 years prohibited in hazardous work
|Child Labour should be made cognizable and non-bailable offense under law and punitive actions against offenders should be made more stringent and time-bound;
|Child labour is now a cognizable offense
|Government working towards a comprehensive rehabilitation, monitoring and accountability framework
|India should reiterate its new role as a leader in global economy by immediately ratifying ILO Conventions No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour and the No. 138 on the minimum age of employment at the earliest.
|Ratification hurdles cleared, and government has indicated that ratification is now in pipeline
In the course of the campaign, during the National Consultation on Child Labour Free India on 10-11 May 2012 opened by the Honourable Minister Shri Mallikarjuna Kharge, the Minister made a clarion call to take immediate steps to curb child labour and bring forth the amendments as demanded by the BBA and Global March. Demand letters were also presented to Honourable Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Mrs Sushma Swaraj as well as all Members of the Parliament, and 65 MPs strongly supported the demand for a complete ban on child labour.
It is heartening to see that the government has accepted the key demands of the campaign for a child labour free India through the proposed amendments, and a step forward in protection of children’s rights in India.
“It is a remarkable victory for the vibrant civil society today and a major step towards ending all forms of child labour. We have been advocating and demanding for more than a decade to bring all forms of child labour under this legislation and for a stronger child labour law in consonance with the ILO’s child labour conventions. Now that the Union cabinet has accepted these demands, we urge the government to table this amended bill in the Parliament in this session. And, the entire political class must demonstrate political will and keep to the commitments it made us this May and ensure unanimous passage of this bill in both the Houses. The entire government machinery must make it its mission to ensure effective enforcement of the legislations by putting in adequate efforts, resources, accountability and an achievable timeframe for abolition of child labour,” extolled Mr Kailash Satyarthi, founder of BBA and Chairperson of Global March on the Union cabinet’s approval.
He further recommended that, “with the new amendments, this is the right time for the Government to ratify the ILO Conventions 138 on minimum age of employment and ILO Convention 182 on worst forms of child labour.”
Over 1,05,000 citizens of India have already signed the e-petition to make India child labour free. Celebrities like Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Mahima Chaudhary, Boman Irani, Deepti Naval and sportspersons like Adam Gilchrist have wholeheartedly lent their support to this campaign. The campaign and the consultations are part of a series of dedicated campaigns and activities to mobilize support for amendment in the child labour law in India and advocate for the ratification of the ILO’s child labour conventions, by the BBA and Global March.