CHENNAI: Child rights organisations and networks in the city and across the State have been burning the midnight oil to draft their recommendations to the Ministry of Labour and Employment on a proposal to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, the deadline for which ends today.
A consultation on the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, organised by the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), in the city recently saw the participation of forums such as Save the Children, TN Child Rights Observatory, Sama Kalvi Iyakkam, Campaign Against Camp Coolie System and representatives from the public sector.
Subsequently, CACL submitted its recommendations to the deputy secretary (Child Labour) in the Ministry of Labour and Employment on July 10.
According to P Joseph Victor Raj, State convenor, CACL, the amendment bill’s objective is to ban all child labour below the age of 14. “Till now, the Act allowed children below the age of 14 to be employed in non-hazardous units,” he said. “Since this is in contradiction with the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the Ministry wants to ban all child labour below 14.”
The Bill also seeks to define adolescence as between 15-18 years of age and introduce regulations on employment of that category of children. But leading child rights organisations, including CACL, are up in arms against the move, demanding complete prohibition of child labour up to 18 years.
The Ministry’s proposal to link the age of child (in the new Act) with the age defined in the RTE Act, which is in conformity with ILO C-138, is not acceptable, said Victor Raj.
“The age should be linked with the age defined in the National Policy for Children, 2013, which is in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India ratified in 1992,” he said.
Echoing him is R Vidyasagar, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF. A child helping his family after school hours in fields, home-based work and forest gathering should also be prohibited, added S Thomas Jayaraj of the Centre for Child Rights and Development (CCRD).
Pointing to the Mines Act, Explosives Act and the Factories Act, which are legislation for adults, Santhakumari, advocate, said it is inappropriate to adopt the list of hazardous or non-hazardous occupations as defined in the adults’ legislation in the CLPRA, a legislation for the children.
Instead of having a fragmented approach on the issue, the government should bring a new child labour policy, said Ossie Fernandes, Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation.