The year to end child labour

11 Jun 2021  Read 404 Views

When we think of our childhood, the memories are usually associated with learning, going to school and living a carefree life. But, in India, due to the high levels of unemployment and poverty, a significant number of kids are being forced to work in harsh conditions, which is sometimes a threat to their life. Even when child labour laws exist, they are often violated as many state governments allocate very few resources to enforce child labour laws.  

On account of World Day Against Child Labour, let us take a look at the child Labour laws in India.

What amounts to Child Labour?

Child Labour amounts to any work performed by children, which is dangerous in nature and affects them both mentally and physically. This type of work deprives the children of their childhood, their right to education as most of them are unable to attend schools or are obligated to leave schools at an early stage in life. In India, there are certain laws that prohibit child Labour and lays down the punishment if someone violates the rules. However, the said law does not completely prohibit the employment of children in certain sectors such as running a family business or working as a child artist. Even though the law is very strict regarding its provisions, child Labour continues to be an ongoing issue in India. The rate of illiteracy along with the lack of awareness amongst the people and the lack of implementation of the law by the authorities are the major factors that contribute to this issue.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act,2016

In India, The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, regulates the laws related to child Labour. It prohibits the employment of any children who is below the age of 14 except in the case of a family business or child artist. It also prohibits the employment of children between the age group of 14-18 years in dangerous occupations. This law also paves the way for India’s responsibility to fulfil the International Labour Organizations Convention No, 182 which prohibits any form of work that is hazardous and can jeopardize a child’s physical and mental well-being. Its main aim is to eliminate all forms of child Labour for children below the age of 18. The amendment provides strict punishment for employers who violate the Act.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Right of Children of Free and Compulsory Education Act: It is an Act which was enacted in 2009, which states the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6-14 years of age in India under Article 21(A) of the Constitution.

  • Prohibition of employment of Children in factories: Article 24 of the Constitution clearly prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age in any factory or mine.

  • Fundamental Duty: Under Article 52(A)(k), it is the fundamental duty of every person to provide education to their child between the age of 6-14 years.

In India, the child Labour law classifies children who are below the age of 18 into 2 categories:

  • A Child (below 14 years)

  • An Adolescent (between 14 to 18 years)

Responsibilities of the Employer

The employer who employs an adolescent to work in his establishment must comply with the following duties:

  • The employer is obligated to maintain a register which should contain every detail of the adolescent such as their name, date of birth, daily hours of work, intervals of rest and the nature of work performed. 

  • The employer must ensure that the adolescent is provided with proper safety measures. This includes providing a clean and hygienic working environment. Other facilities like drinking water, protective gears should also be provided. While operating heavy machineries, instructions for handling the machines should be given.

  • Within 30 days of hiring, the employer has to send a notice to the Inspector (a government-appointed official) who is vested with the duty of making sure that no illegal employment is taking place.

Punishment

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 lays down the following punishments:

Punishment for employing a child below the age of 14:

  • Imprisonment for a between of 6 months which can extend to two years, and/or

  • A fine of Rs 20,000 which can extend to Rs 50,000.

Punishment for employing an Adolescent:

  • Imprisonment for a between of 6 months which can extend to two years, and/or

  • A fine of Rs 20,000 which can extend to Rs 50,000.

  • Imprisonment of one year which may extend to three years if the person commits the offence again, after being punished already.

Punishment for Parents:

  • Parent who forces their children who work instead of providing them with education are also entitled to be punished.

  • The law issues a warning if the rule is violated once.

  • If the parents continue to force their children to work after being already warned, they are punished with a fine of up to Rs 10,000.

National Legislations and International Labour Organization

The Child Labour Amendment Act, 2016 and the Right to Education Act, 2009 paved the way for the ratification of ILO’s two core conventions:

  1. Convention No 138: It stipulates that the minimum age for any children to start working should not be below the age of compulsory schooling and in any case not less than 15 years, with an exception for the developing countries.

  2. Convention No. 182: It prohibits employment of children in any hazardous work which is likely to jeopardize the child’s physical and mental health. It aims at the elimination of the work forms of child labours amongst children below 18 years.

Act Now: End Child Labour

This year’s World Day Against Child Labour focuses on the actions taken for the 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. It is the first World Day since the universal ratification of ILO’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. In June, on the account of World Day, the ILO and UNICEF are going to release new global estimates and trend in child labour under the aegis of Alliance 8.7. The report will contain the assessment of the pace of progress towards ending child labour is likely to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented economic crisis that has accompanied it.

For the year 2021, ILO will promote a “Week of Action” on 12th June, starting with the launch of the global estimates and trends on child labour. The event carried out during the week will be an opportunity for the partners to showcase progress in carrying out the “2021 Action Pledges”. All the pledges that are made by the regional, national and organizational stakeholders and individuals are going to be featured on the website for the 2021 International Year.

This year’s World Day, along with the actions taken throughout the year will collectively contribute to the Global Conference on Child Labour in 2022 which will be hosted by the Government of South Africa.

Conclusion

There are various factors that contribute to the prevalence of child labour in India. Due to household poverty, the children are often forced to work to contribute to the family earning. This way they miss out on the opportunity of gaining education which further leads to illiteracy and poverty across generations. Child labour is the cause as well as the consequence of poverty, hence, it is important to raise awareness about the negative aspects of child labour. Strict policies should be implemented immediately to eradicate child labour. It is very important for every citizen to understand the importance of education amongst the children as they are the ones who represent our nation.

About the Author: Antalina Guha | 29 Post(s)

Antalina Guha, is in the  5th year of B.A. LL.B course in Ajeenkya DY Patil University, with a core interest in Intellectual Property Rights and Criminal law.

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