Ministry of Labour and Development has proposed to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. The observations and recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour (2013-14) under the chairmanship of Dara Singh Chauhan, have been considered and most of them have been included in the proposed amendment.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 was introduced in Rajya Sabha on 4th December, 2012 and referred to the Standing Committee by the Speaker for examination and report within three months from the date of publication of the reference of the Bill I the Bulletin Part-II of Lok Sabha. The Committee invited representatives of the Ministry of Labour and employment, as also suggestions from various individuals, experts and institutions. It also undertook on-the-spot study visits to Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Mumbai.
The committee proposed addition of provisions to include the adolescents as well, substituting the word ‘children’ with ‘adolescent’ at several places. The committee envisaged a change in the long and short title of the act, to include the word ‘adolescent’ in it. The Ministry accepted this proposal as also to include steps to regulate the working of children in the audio visual industry.
Child and adolescent have been separately defined. The age of child is linked with age defined in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and also the International Labour Organization Convention No. 138. It defines adolescent as a person who has completed 14 years of age but has not completed his 18th year. A child is defined as a person who has not completed his 14 years of age or such child as may be specified in the RTE Act, whichever is more.
The proviso to section 3 is proposed to exclude the situations where a child helps his family after school hours or during vacations, in fields, home based work, forest gathering or attends technical institutions, from the purview of prohibited occupations and processes. This proviso wasn’t approved by the Standing Committee as being a loophole in itself, being skeptical about the how the Ministry would keep a check on children working in their homes. However, the Ministry justified its stand by reasoning that it didn’t want to redraw the social fabric of Indian society. According to the Ministry, removing this proviso would place the families of children at the whims and mercy of the inspecting staff, who could hold all parents assigning family chores of a non-commercial nature to their children as guilty of violating the law.
The Committee was of the opinion that parents shouldn’t be punished when their children are caught under the Act, as the reason of entry of children into employment include poverty, neglect, social and economic exploitation, trafficking, lack of schools and loss/ incapacity of parents. It noted that the initiatives taken for eradicating child labour haven’t percolated properly. The Ministry accepted the recommendation regarding punishment of only repeat offenders. Section 14(1) is also proposed to be amended to enhance the punishment for offence under the Act.
The Bill incorporates a provision regarding formation of Child Labour rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund as held in the M.C. Mehta Case. Providing all elementary education to parents regarding hazardous works will be done utilizing this Fund.
The Committee had also demanded a review of the definition of ‘hazardous occupations and processes’. This was denied by the Ministry, as the prohibition had already been included within various other acts.
Part III of the Act, relating to the regulation of conditions of work of children has also been deleted at the behest of the Committee. Provision exists under Section 18, empowering the Government to make rules by Gazette Notifications.
The Committee had proposed conferring of powers over the District Magistrate to ensure proper implementation of the provisions of the Act. The DM could delegate powers to a subordinate officer. Also, the involvement of District administrative machinery for inspection and monitoring has been covered in the amendment proposal.
The Committee had also demanded a comprehensive strategy by all Ministries involved, to fight the menace and deal with child trafficking and exploitation. The Ministry however, rejected the proposal reasoning that when specific laws on the subject exist, there is no need to again introduce provisions about these issues in the CLPRA. The Committee also demanded a New Child Labour Policy to remove the fragmented approach on the issue. The Ministry termed the recommendation as a part of policy and implementation strategy and not part of bill under consideration.
The Ministry of Women and Child development under the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 has been given the responsibility for enforcement of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, which includes a chapter on rehabilitation and social integration. Hence, the Ministry didn’t favor duplication of provisions in the Amendment Bill. The matter of child trafficking is being handled by the Anti-Trafficking Nodal Cell, set up under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Street and orphaned children were being taken care of under Ministry of Women and Child Development. The National Child Labour Project Scheme provides for the rehabilitation of rescued children.
The Ministry is looking forward to ratify the ILO Conventions 138 and 182, after the proposed amendments are accepted, because these amendments would put the Indian law in exact conformity with the Convention standards.
Comments over the amendments may be sent to Deputy Secretary (CL), Ministry of Labour and Employment, Room No. 06,Shram Shakti Bhawan, Rafi Marg, New Delhi, 110001, within 30 days.
Read the proposed amendment here.
Read the Parliamentary Committee Report here.