Amendments to the Central legislation governing child labour are likely to be taken up by the Union Cabinet next week.
The draft amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 would permit children less than 14 years of age to help the family in fields, forest or home-based enterprises, provided it is only during holidays or after school hours. “Children younger than 14 years help out in family businesses such as running a shop or even other activities. But if it is for a commercial enterprise, then the law and penalties will kick in,” said a senior labour ministry official.
The proposed amendments also seek to bar children between ages of 14 and 18 years, who will be termed as “adolescent” from working in hazardous sectors such as mining and would align labour laws with the Right to Children for Free and Compulsory Education, ensuring that all children between 6 to 14 years attend school.
“It was listed for approval last week but could not be taken up by the Union Cabinet.,” said the official, adding that the Bill would be tabled in Parliament in its next session. The proposed amendments are significant given that child labour accounts for nearly 8.5 per cent of country’s 31.2-crore workforce. Of these, over 1.26 crore children are aged between 5 and 14 years.
Child rights activist and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi too had called for speedy passage of the Bill, pointing out that 179 countries have ratified International Labour Organisation convention to combat worst forms of child labour. Under existing laws, children less than 14 years are permitted to work except in prohibited sectors such as domestic work, automobile workshops, bidi-making, carpet weaving, handloom and power loom industry and mines.
Meanwhile, Cabinet is expected to take up proposed Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill for approval in its next meeting.