HYDERABAD: On the one hand, the internet is going crazy over Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention that focused on the future of the country’s children and on the other hand, members of the Lok Sabha of the largest democracy in the world, passed the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment that allows children under-14 to work (though with special provisions).
The bill that is now awaiting the President’s assent has become a major cause of concern among those fighting for child rights and safety.
From Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel laureate and founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, to child rights’ activists in the city, there has been strong opposition to the Bill.
While Satyarthi called it a “missed opportunity” for the country’s children, Anuradha Rao, president, Balala Hakkula Sangham, said that passing of this bill is a way to make the government’s job easy.
“For the ongoing Operation Muskaan to succeed, 1.5 crore children need to be rescued. This will be a tedious job and this bill will make it easy,” said Anuradha, adding that the bill has given the green signal to employ more children as labour.
“Most times, shopkeepers and employers of small units tell us that the identified child is a family member. They also lie about their age. There is no way that we can prove the child’s age or identity as there is no card issued by the government,” Anuradha said.
She added that the bill is “a license to mainstream child labour.’’
“They will employ them and show us the bill. There will be no way it can be questioned,” she said. The motive of this particular amendment in the bill is to, in a way, ensure that children do not neglect their education and work in their family business, entertainment industry and the likes. This provision too is a loophole, feels Anuradha. “Children from economically weak sections of the society are sent to work because they need the money. They would make use of the bill and get some money rather than be educated,” she said. “And these children will be employed in the beedi and fire cracker industry. There is also a high chance of employers exploiting them for they have no idea about their rights, nor the power to question,” she added.
Psychologist Radhika Acharya said, “They are children. They do not know their rights and we adults are making a bill on it. It is ridiculous.” The law- makers are assuming that it will work in favour of children but is in fact going against them,’’ she opined.