The problem of child labour continues to pose a challenge before the nation. Government has been taking various pro-active measures to tackle this problem. Way back in 1979, Government formed the first committee called Gurupadswamy Committee to study the issue of child labour and to suggest measures to tackle it. The Committee made some far-reaching recommendations. It observed that as long as poverty continued, it would be difficult to totally eliminate child labour and hence, any attempt to abolish it through legal recourse would not be a practical proposition. The Committee felt that in the circumstances, the only alternative left was to ban child labour in hazardous areas and to regulate and ameliorate the conditions of work in other areas. It recommended that a multiple policy approach was required in dealing with the problems of working children.
Based on the recommendations of Gurupadaswamy Committee, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986. The Act prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others. The list of hazardous occupations and processes is progressively being expanded on the recommendation of Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee constituted under the Act.
In consonance with the above approach, a National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987. The Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations & processes in the first instance. The Action Plan outlined in the Policy for tackling this problem is as follows:
o Legislative Action Plan for strict enforcement of Child Labour Act and other labour laws to ensure that children are not employed in hazardous employments, and that the working conditions of children working in non-hazardous areas are regulated in accordance with the provisions of the Child Labour Act. It also entails further identification of additional occupations and processes, which are detrimental to the health and safety of the children.
o Focusing of General Developmental Programs for Benefiting Child Labour As poverty is the root cause of child labour, the action plan emphasizes the need to cover these children and their families also under various poverty alleviation and employment generation schemes of the Government.
o Project Based Plan of Action envisages starting of projects in areas of high concentration of child labour. Pursuant to this, in 1988, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme was launched in 9 districts of high child labour endemicity in the country. The Scheme envisages running of special schools for child labour withdrawn from work. In the special schools, these children are provided formal/non-formal education along with vocational training, a stipend of Rs.100 per month, supplementary nutrition and regular health check ups so as to prepare them to join regular mainstream schools. Under the Scheme, funds are given to the District Collectors for running special schools for child labour. Most of these schools are run by the NGOs in the district.
Commission for protection of rights
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, an Act of Parliament (December 2005). The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
The Commission visualises a rights-based perspective flowing into National Policies and Programmes, along with nuanced responses at the State, District and Block levels, taking care of specificities and strengths of each region. In order to touch every child, it seeks a deeper penetration to communities and households and expects that the ground experiences inform the support the field receives from all the authorities at the higher level. Thus the Commission sees an indispensable role for the State, sound institution-building processes, respect for decentralization at the level of the local bodies at the community level and larger societal concern for children and their well-being.
CHILD LABOUR (PROHIBITION AND REGULATION) ACT, 1986 & THE CHILD LABOUR (PROHIBITION
AND REGULATION) RULES, 1988
The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 was enacted to prohibit the engagement of children below the age of fourteen years in factories, mines and hazardous employments and to regulate their conditions of work in certain other employments. According to the Act, no child shall be employed or permitted to work in any of the occupations set forth in Part A of the Schedule or in any workshop wherein any of the processes set forth in Part B of the Schedule is carried on, provided that nothing in this Act shall apply to any workshop wherein any process is carried on by the occupier with the aid of his family or to any school established by, or receiving assistance or recognition from the Government. Also, the Central Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, constitute ‘the Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee’ to advise the Central Government for the purpose of additions of occupations and processes to the Schedule of the Act.
The provisions of the Act in a nutshell:
No child shall be required or permitted to work in any establishment in excess of such number of hours, as may be prescribed for such establishment or class of establishments. The period of work on each day shall be so fixed that no period shall exceed three hours and that no child shall work for more than three hours before he has had an interval for rest for at least one hour.
No child shall be required or permitted to work overtime. No child shall be required or permitted to work in, any establishment on any day on which he has already been working in another establishment.
Every child employed in an establishment shall be allowed in each week, a holiday of one whole day, which day shall be specified by the occupier in a notice permanently exhibited in a conspicuous place in the establishment and the day so specified shall not be altered by the occupier more than once in three months.
Every occupier shall maintain, in respect of children employed or permitted to work in any establishment, a register to be available for inspection by an Inspector at all times during working hours or when work is being carried on in any such establishment showing:- (i) the name and date of birth of every child so employed or permitted to work; (ii) hours and periods of work of any such child and the intervals of rest to which he is entitled; (iii) the nature of work of any such child; and (iv) such other particulars as may be prescribed.
The appropriate Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, make rules for the health and safety of the children employed or permitted to work in any establishment or class of establishments.
Whoever employs any child or permits any child to work in contravention of the provisions of this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment or with fine or with both.
Any person, police officer or inspector may file a complaint of the commission of an offence under this Act in any Court of competent jurisdiction. No Court inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence under this Act.
Ban on employment of children
Ban on employment of children as domestic servants or in dhabas (roadside eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spas or in other recreational centers is now in force from 10th October 2006 under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. The Union Ministry of Labour had earlier issued a notification giving three-month mandatory notice. The Ministry has warned that anyone employing children in these categories would be liable to prosecution and other penal action under the Act.
The Labour Ministry has sought necessary support from the State Governments in enforcing the ban on employment of children as domestic servants and also in eateries etc. In a letter to the Chief Ministers, the Minister for Labour and Employment has also sought their support in rehabilitating children withdrawn from work due to this ban. The Ministry is holding zonal level meetings to sensitize the concerned state level officials, civil society organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders.
The Secretary, Labour and Employment, has also written to his counterparts in several Central Government Ministries requesting them for infrastructure support by the concerned departments towards rehabilitation of the released children from work and their families as an immediate objective. He has also urged them to make specific provisions in the schemes of their Ministries for working children and their families as a long term measure. The Secretaries who have been approached include those from the Ministries of Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, Rural Development, Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, Social Justice and Empowerment. The views and cooperation of industrial associations and NGOs are also sought in providing necessary support towards rehabilitation as a consequence of ban. Government servants have already been prohibited from employing children as domestic servants.
A toll free 24-hour telephone help line 1098 for children in distress can be accessed in 72 cities of the country. This number can be available by any child or concerned adult on his or her behalf. This helpline, easily remembered in Hindi as “Dus, Nau, Aath”, is presently working in the following 72 cities:
Agartala, Aurangabad, Chennai, Guwahati, Kanchipuram, Kozhikode, Nadia, Pune, South 24 Paraganas, Varanasi, Shimla, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Kanyakumari, Kutch, Nagapattinam, Puri, Thiruvananthapuram, Vijayawada, Ludhiana, Ahmednagar, Baroda, Cuddalore, Imphal, Karaikal, Lucknow, Nagpur, Rourkela, Thirunelveli, Vishakhapatnam, Akola, Bhopal, Delhi, Indore, Kochi, Mangalore, Nasik, Ranchi, Thrissur, Waynad, Allahabad, Bhubaneshwar, East Midanapore Jammu, Kolkata, Madurai, New Jalpaiguri, Salem, Tiruchirapalli, West Midnapore, Alwar, Chandigarh, Goa, Jaipur, Kollam, Mumbai, Patna, Shillong, Udaipur, Agra, Amarawati, Cuddalore, Gorakhpur, Kalyan, Kota, Murshidabad Port Blair, Sholapur, Ujjain and Gurgaon.
National Child Labour Project (NCLP)
The ban is expected to go a long way in ameliorating the condition of hapless working children. The Labour Ministry is also contemplating to strengthen and expand its rehabilitative Scheme of National Child Labour Project (NCLP), which already covers 250 child labour endemic districts in the country.