By Pooja Mahesh:
Mr. Mallikarjun Kharge, the Union Minister for Labour and Employment, stated that the Ministry submitted a detailed report to the government which demanded that the name of the Act, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) be changed to Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act. The act, if implemented, would ensure that the children under the age of fourteen are not being employed and adolescents between the ages of fourteen and eighteen would be prohibited from working in mines and other hazardous industries.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, at present only prohibits the employment of children under the age of fourteen and it bans them from working in hazardous industries such as coal mining. This Act also forbids employing children as domestic helps and in roadside eateries. In the information given from the Ministry of Labour through the Right To Information application filed by the Non-Governmental Organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, it was seen that the state governments provided the rehabilitation benefits to just twenty-eight children who worked as labourers during the years 2006 and 2008. This was ascertained even though over ten thousand children were rescued from eateries and homes.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), no child below the age of 18 should be employed. To meet the provisions of the ILO, the current Act has to be amended, without which, it can be ‘defunct’ and would allow many minor children who are employed, slip behind the radar, without much help given.
The report which was given to the government does not stop children from helping their parents during their free time. Furthermore, it states that there should be no bar on children helping their parents in the fields during their holidays and after they come back from school. The proposed changes for the Child Labour Act would give us and most importantly the children who are employed a better chance at life and allow them to try their hand at education, which had been denied to them in one way or another. The new Act, if implemented with the proposed changes would give the children a rekindled hope which had been lost when they were forced to work.
Apart from providing them a secure childhood that they should have always had, the effectiveness of the proposed Act can be debated upon. The current Act, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, has shown its inept nature at curbing Child Labour which has only constantly risen over the recent years. The help which these children need are apathetic and not very efficient.
Without the necessary support and crucial rehabilitation that the children require after being rescued from unwarranted employment, children will continue to be displaced well into their adulthood, with probable signs of mal-adjusted behaviour because of the trauma of their experiences. With the proposed changes that the Ministry of Labour has submitted to the government, all we can do now is hope fervently that the changes are accepted and a more effectual and strong Act comes into being.