20th JANUARY 2017
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II: SOCIAL – CHILD LABOUR
1. Discuss the International Labour Organisation’s Conventions 182 and 138 recently ratified by India? What was the reason for the delay in their ratification by India?
- After a long wait of almost two decades, the Government of India finally decided to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour and Convention 138 on Minimum Age of Employment.
- About 4.3 million children wake up to a day of labour and not school in India. Another 9.8 million are officially out-of-school.
- Child labour perpetuates illiteracy and poverty. It is the root cause of organised crimes such as human trafficking, terror and drug mafia.
Global March Against Child Labour
- The Global March Against Child Labour under the leadership of Kailash Satyarthi, in which marchers united and advanced through Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the U.S, culminated finally in Geneva on June 1, 1998 where the ILO conference was in session. We put forward our demand for an international convention to ban the worst forms of child labour. The voice of the marchers was heard and reflected in the draft of the ILO Convention 182.
- In June 1999, delegates of the ILO unanimously adopted the convention. It was the first time that a convention or treaty had been adopted with the full support of all members.
- With 180 countries having already ratified the convention, it has become the fastest-ratified convention in the history of ILO.
Why the delay by India:
- The main bottleneck in the way of India ratifying Conventions 182 and 138 was addressing forced or compulsory recruitment of children and appropriately raising the age of employment in hazardous occupations from 14 to 18 years.
- Consequent to the passing of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 by the Indian Parliament prohibiting the employment of children up to 14 years of age, and children up to 18 years of age in hazardous occupations, it was imperative that we ratified Conventions 182 and 138.
- Moreover, our failure to ratify the two conventions, which are two of the eight core labour conventions, despite being a founder-member of the ILO, reflected poorly on us as a nation.
The way ahead:
- As a matter of urgency, the government will take immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour: child slavery (including the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, and forced recruitment for armed conflict), child prostitution and their use in pornography, use of children for illicit activities such as drug trafficking, and exposure to any hazardous work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
- Under the provisions of the ILO Conventions 182 and 138, India will not adhere to a fixed deadline by which the worst forms of child labour must be eliminated.
- It will ultimately depend on the level of moral courage, public concern, social empathy, political will and the implementation of resources invested in the development and protection of children.
- Investment in children is an investment in the future. Safe childhood for a safe India.
GS II : SOCIAL – CHILD LABOUR
2. There is a need to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. How far does the present amendment ac prove satisfactory? Also, suggest provisions for a more progressive child labour law.
(Repeat Question from 2 August 2016 Question Bank)
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 amends the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which prohibits the engagement of children in certain types of occupations and regulates the condition of work of children in other occupations.
Need to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
- The Act prohibits employment of children below 14 years in certain occupations such as automobile workshops, bidi-making, carpet weaving, handloom and power loom industry, mines and domestic work.
- The law has proved to be weak and ineffective in curbing child labour.
- It is in contradiction with Article 21-A of the Constitution and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 that makes schooling compulsory for all in the age group of six to 14 years.
- Also, the 1986 Act does not regulate adolescent labour as mandated by ILO Conventions 138 and 182.
Major provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016
- In light of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the Act seeks to prohibit employment of children below 14 years in all occupations except where the child helps his family after school hours.
- The Act adds a new category of persons called “adolescent”. An adolescent means a person between 14 and 18 years of age. The Act prohibits employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
- The central government may add or omit any hazardous occupation from the list included in the Act.
- The Act enhances the punishment for employing any child in an occupation. The penalty for employing a child was increased to imprisonment between 6 months and two years (from 3 months-one year) or a fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 (from Rs 10,000-20,000) or both.
- It also includes penalty for employing an adolescent in a hazardous occupation. The penalty for employing an adolescent in hazardous occupation is imprisonment between 6 months and two years or a fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 or both.
- The government may confer powers on a District Magistrate to ensure that the provisions of the law are properly carried out.
- The Act empowers the government to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children and adolescents are prohibited.
1. Exemption to family enterprises:
- Although the government’s intention to amend the Act is to be appreciated, what is deeply problematic is its intention to exempt from the ban employment in family enterprises.
- Section 3 in Clause 5 allows child labour in “family or family enterprises” or allows the child to be “an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry”.
- Since most of India’s child labour is caste-based work, with poor families trapped in intergenerational debt bondage, this refers to most of the country’s child labourers.
- The clause is also dangerous as it does not define the hours of work; it simply states that children may work after school hours or during vacations.
- It is suggested that poverty and socio-economic conditions in India justify children helping their families in certain occupations where the possibility of any harm coming upon them does not exist, provided that they balance the work with schooling. This may sound reasonable but may prove unworkable.
- The law potentially opens loopholes that will sustain or even encourage child labour, creating a regulatory nightmare.
- Here the government fails to recognise that family enterprises can also prove to be exploitative and oppressive for children.
- ‘Family enterprises’ fall in the unorganised sector, making them an amorphous legal category that is hard to govern.
- Such a law will adversely affect girl children who are often forced into domestic work, or Dalits and those from the minorities who work out of dire poverty but are ultimately denied the joys of childhood.
- Working outside of school hours and earning valuable income for the family will surely have a deleterious effect on the children’s health as well as their aptitude for learning.
2. List of hazardous occupations slashed:
- It has slashed the list of hazardous occupations for children from 83 to include just mining, explosives, and occupations mentioned in the Factory Act.
- This means that work in chemical mixing units, cotton farms, battery recycling units, and brick kilns, among others, have been dropped.
- Further, even the ones listed as hazardous can be removed, according to Section 4 — not by Parliament but by government authorities at their own discretion.
3. Contravenes international laws:
- Not only do the new amendments reverse the gains of the 1986 Act, but actually contradict the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000 that makes it punishable for anyone to procure or employ a child in a hazardous occupation.
- They also contravene the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Minimum Age Convention and UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a signatory.
- According to UNICEF, a child is involved in child labour if he or she is between 5 and 11 years, does at least one hour of economic activity, or at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week. And in case of children aged between 12 and 14, 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work per week is considered child labour.
4. Devastating health consequences:
- The devastating health consequences of the new Act may be the worst blow on India’s poor yet.
- There are 33 million child labourers in India, according to UNICEF.
- As per the 2011 census, 80 per cent of them are Dalits, 20 per cent are from the Backward Classes. This law will restrict these children to traditional caste-based occupations for generations.
National Policy on Child Labour, 1987
- The National Policy on Child Labour of 1987, implemented in 1988, adopted a gradual approach that combined the strict enforcement of laws on child labour with development programmes to address the root causes of child labour like caste and poverty.
- It focussed on the rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations.
- The Central government provided a Rs.6 billion fund for implementing the policy.
- Unfortunately, this budget has been cut massively in education (28 per cent) and for women and children (50 per cent) in the last two years alone, leading to the the closure of 42,000 schools.
- The Education for All initiative and the Mahila Samakhya programmes have also been downsized.
- If the amendments intended to preserve Indian art and craft by enabling parents with traditional skills to pass them on to their children, this should be done through reform and investment in education.
- Slashed budgets to should be restored; mid-day meals should re-instituted; and secure housing should be provided through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan boarding schools to homeless children.
- Artisans should be hired as teachers to pass on traditional knowledge and skills to the next generation.
- Moreover, instead of just tinkering with the 1986 Act, the government needs to comprehensively overhaul it, focussing on the rehabilitation of children rescued from traumatic working conditions.
- This requires an interlinking of ‘rescue, rehabilitation and schooling’ through greater coordination among Ministries and organisations, and the inter-locking of the provisions of existing laws such as the RTE Act, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976; the Factories Act, 1948; the Beedi and Cigar Workers Act, 1996 and so on.