July 20, 2016 2:12:10 am
The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed a Bill that allows children below 14 to engage in “home-based work” with their families after school hours, or help their families in fields or forest gathering. It amended a 1986 law that prohibits child labour.
The amendment also allows children between 14 and 18, newly defined as ‘adolescents’, to work or be employed in other professions as well, except in “any of the hazardous occupations or processes” that have been listed in the law.
The amendment continues to prohibit the employment of children below 14 years of age in any “profession” and has increased the penalties for violators. Employers of children can be jailed for six months to two years or be fined Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 or both. The original 1986 law provided for imprisonment between three months and one year and a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000.
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Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the new law would help curb child labour. He said children were allowed to work with the family because there was no employer-employee equation in such situations.
However, many Opposition members were not very convinced and opposed the Bill, which was later passed by a voice vote. Ravi Prakash Verma of the Samajwadi Party said India had an “organised system of exploitation of children” and the amendment would only worsen the situation.
Vivek Gupta of Trinamool Congress was of the view that while agriculture had not been listed in the hazardous category, the use of chemicals and pesticides made it hazardous. He said family enterprises such as carpet weaving and beedi making were also hazardous for children.
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