The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2016 which was approved in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, has riled up a controversy and warranted strong criticism directed at the Centre.
The bill allows children to work for family businesses, despite concerns by the United Nations and child rights advocates that it will simply make it easier to coerce children into labour.
Nobel Laureate and child’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi called the new bill a ‘missed opportunity’, saying that there are gaps in the bill which raise serious concerns.
The definition of family and family enterprises is flawed. This bill uses Indian family values to justify economic exploitation of children. It is misleading the society by blurring the lines between learning in a family and working in a family enterprise.Satyarthi told The Hindustan Times
He added that “children have been failed again”.
In a scathing opinion piece in The Indian Express, social worker Harsh Mander wrote:
Of the many injustices that have scarred India, the most unconscionable are those of unequal childhoods. The law in the country has permitted children to be confined to work instead of being in schools and at carefree play.Harsh Mander, Social Worker and Activist
The amended law prohibits only that child work which is considered hazardous for adult workers, without recognising the specific vulnerabilities of children.
Roop Sen, founder and advisor of NGO Sanjog said:
Social policy experts predict that this will be used as a caveat to push more children into labour. The state machinery does not have the capacity to monitor and ensure that children are not commercially exploited, harmed or their right to education is not compromised.
Child Rights and You (CRY) said the bill has failed to ensure the rights of minors.
The Child Labour Bill which has been amended after 30 years does not protect children from the menace of child labour. Allowing children to work in family enterprises is likely to have far reaching implications on children’s overall development and health.Spokesperson, CRY
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, ProChild Coalition, a group of citizens and NGOs working for the protection of child rights wrote:
After 30 years the government has introduced a new child labour law which claims that it bans all forms of child labour till the age of 14. Sadly, the country is buying into an illusion.
About “home-based” work, the coalition said:
The government claims that it has banned all forms of child labour up to the age of 14 years however, with the new Bill it has de-incentivized education by legalizing home-based work.
The Bill is now pending approval from the President before it can be passed as a law.