ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Let the Children Play

Child labour laws must be based on the right of all children to a childhood.

Ban it or regulate it, the debate over child labour seems unending. Meantime, the numbers of children compelled to work, mostly because of poverty, continue to grow. With all this talk about “Make in India,” we so easily forget that a substantial portion of what is made in India is crafted by the hands of poor children who ought to be in school rather than working in fields, forests, mines, shops, homes or in highly hazardous sweatshops. The fact of children working in all kinds of occupations remains one of India’s worst-kept secrets.

Tinkering with a law will not eliminate what appears to be an intractable social problem. In 2012, the former United Progressive Alliance government attempted to tweak the existing Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. It introduced a bill to amend the 1986 act that would have effectively prohibited all children below 14 years of age from any occupation that would keep them out of school. The amendment would also have banned children between 14 and 18 years of age from working in hazardous industries (earlier, that applied only to children less than 14 years old). While the former was to ensure that children between the ages of 6 and 14 years could be enrolled in schools under the Right to Education Act, 2009, the latter was being brought in to comply with the International Labour Organization’s Convention on conditions of work of adolescents.

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