Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that destroys their childhood, potential, and dignity, and is harmful to their physical as well as their mental development. It refers to the works that are mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and/or which interferes with their schooling. Child labour is one of our society’s most deep and serious issues because children who work as labour from their early childhood are unable to develop their skills and consequently end up working as unskilled employees for the rest of their lives.
In India the child labour law has been evolving gradually till the present day. Our Constitution provides that any form of forced labour is outlawed in India as under Article 23 of the Indian Constitution. Also, a child under the age of 14 cannot be employed to perform any hazardous work, according to Article 24. Moreover, the health and strength of workers, men and women, as well as the delicate age of children, are not abused, is provided under to Article 39.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
The first act on child labour to be passed after independence was the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. Before this act was enacted, there were several acts which prohibited the employment of children below the age of 14 in factories or mines. Like The Factories Act of 1948, prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory; The Mines Act of 1952, prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine etc.
The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 defines “child” as a child who has not completed 14 year of age. The Act was basically based on reformative or prohibition regulation approach. According to which the child who was less than 14 years of age was prohibited from entry into the factories, mines, or any hazardous place of employment. It prohibits employment of children in various occupations and processes contained in Part A & B of the Schedule of the Act. Moreover, at other places which are non-hazardous in nature, the entry of such child was not prohibited but it only regulates the condition of employment in all occupations and processes not prohibited under the Act. Employment was regulated in the sense like setting maximum workings hours, minimum precautions required etc. This approach was adopted by arguing that in India there is extreme poverty so child need to work for the economic necessity and survival of their family.
Criticism of 1986 Act:-
- The word hazardous was not defined in the act, only in the schedule of the act hazardous employment and hazardous processes were specified where a child of 14 years or less was not to be employed. This was completely in the hands of central government Central government to modify the schedule.
- Prohibition of child labour was in certain industries only which in a way legalized child labour in other industries which were not mentioned in the schedule of the act.
- The act was violative of Article. 24 of Constitution which says for prohibition of employment of children below 14 years in factories, mines and any other hazardous employment. and certain DPSP itself.
- Only hazardous employment and process were mentioned in schedule so child labour prohibited only in those so, in other industries we cannot claim a raise of child labour.
Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016.
The act of 1986 posed many loopholes and drawbacks which necessitated amendment. In the year 2016 an amendment was brought to this act which changed few provisions. The Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, was enacted where two categories of child was made. First category comprises of child who is of 14 or lesser years. These children could neither be employed into hazardous industries nor other industries thus it completely prohibited employment of these children. The second category comprises of children between 14 years to 18 years of age. These cannot be employed into hazardous industries but can be employed to non-hazardous. There was also a blanket ban which means a child can engage into these two industry when they are non-hazardous after school hours and during the school vacation. These industries are:
a) Family’ Enterprise
b) Entertainment Industry.
Criticism of 2016 amendment:-
1) Child labour within family enterprise was allowed which could be misused. There are abundance of child labour in the family itself also child remain absent from school to work for their family.
2) Again non-hazardous was not defined in the act.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017
The Government of India has notified an amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Central Rules. The Rules establish a wide and specific framework for child and adolescent worker prevention, prohibition, rescue, and rehabilitation. It also clarifies concerns relating to family assistance and family businesses, as well as the concept of family in relation to children, with specific measures integrated into the rules. It also ensures that artists who have been granted permission to work under the Act are protected in terms of working hours and working conditions. The rules provide explicit provisions including enforcement agencies’ roles and obligations in order to ensure proper implementation and compliance with the Act’s provisions.
The legislations related to child labour in India has developed enormously. Despite the efforts of central as well as states government, child labour still remains to be a major challenge for India. Laws states that no child below age of 14 years shall be employed in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous employment but in reality the laws are not enforced as it states. So, strict enforcement of Indian laws on child labour is required coupled with development programs to address the root causes of child labour such as poverty.