NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Tuesday is expected to clear the proposal to amend the anti-child labour law which proposes a complete ban on employment of children up to the age of 14 in any industry — hazardous or non-hazardous.
According to the proposal, children between 14 and 18 years can be employed, but only in non-hazardous industries with property safety mechanism. As of now, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, permits employment of children of up to 14 years of age in industries not considered to be hazardous.
As per the existing law, hazardous industries include tobacco, stone crushing, catering, mining, cement and crackers among others. The proposal is in line with International Labour Organization (ILO)’s convention on child labour that seeks to provide minimum age of employment and says that no children below the age of 14 should be employed.The existing anti-child labour law was in also contravention of the Right to Education Act that guarantees free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years.
The changes in the law will make employing children below the age of 14 a criminal offence. Employing a child can result in jail term of three months and a fine of up to Rs 20,000 or both.The Cabinet may also discuss the demand of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) that wants the amendment to include adolescent labourers under the purview of the anti-child labour law.
The child rights body had advocated the need to redefine the word ‘child’ and ‘child labourer’ under the Act.Though the definition of a ‘child’ under the Juvenile Justice Act is 18 years, adolescents have been left out of the law relating to child labour and are governed by regulations under by the Minimum Wages Act, it argued.
The child rights body is of the view that the anti-child labour law should be amended in such a way that all forms of child labour stand abolished without drawing distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous child labour.Planning Commission’s working group for social inclusion of vulnerable groups like child labour and bonded and migrant labour for the 12th five-year plan (2012-17) also argued that the existing legislation should be amended to include child labour in informal and unorganized sectors and also in the light of RTE Act.
The group said the areas that needed to be revisited were minimum age for prohibition of employment of children, imposition of stiffer penalty for violation of the Act, framing rules for the health and safety of children employed or permitted to work in any establishment or class of establishments.”It is important to protect children from exploitation, unregulated working hours and hazardous conditions of work,” it said.
According to National Sample Survey data, the child workforce during 2004-05 was estimated at 9.07 million against 21.55 million in 1983, the working group noted.As per the Census 2001, there were 12.6 million economically active children in the age-group of 5-14 years. It was 11.3 million in the 1991 Census.