Author: Shreya Saxena ,
Alliance University, Bangalore
Child labour throughout the world has been a significant concern as it affects the children both physically and mentally. Child labour is one of the most severe issues and root cause of trouble not only in India but also in various developing countries throughout the world. Child labour is very common due to poverty in developing countries. The Indian parliament has enacted various law to prohibit child labour, but they haven't proven to be effective. As per the 2020 statistics of child labour worldwide, there are around 152 million child labourers, out of which India alone accounts for 7.3%.
The term ‘Child’ has been defined as a child as a person who has not completed fourteen years of age under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. The definition was changed under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 as any person who has not completed 18 years of ages is a child. Later the POCSO Act of 2012 also defined the term as any person below eighteen years of age.
The term ‘Child labour’ can be defined as the practice of having children engaged on a part or full-time basis in various economic activities. Every child should be nurtured with care and affection by the family as well as by society. But in reality, due to the socio-economic problems, children are forced to work for their living in industries, factories, eatery, etc.
CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
The Fundamental Rights given under the Indian Constitution guarantee fundamental rights for both citizens and non-citizens within which the fundamental rights of the children are also implicitly included. The Indian Constitution has consciously incorporated provisions to secure compulsory elementary education as well as the labour protection for the children. The Constitution of India too provides certain rights to children and prohibits child labour, i.e. providing age limit of 14 years whom shall not be employed in any mine or factory or engage in any other hazardous work; State to direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of the children are not abused; children to be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner; The state is to provide free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years, etc.
Beside constitutional provisions, below mentioned are the major enactments of Indian legislations which provides legal protection to children in various occupations.
1. The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933: The Act aims to eradicate the exploitation of children arising from the pledging of labour of young children in lieu of loans or advances by the employers of their parents. The Act declares that any agreement, to pledge the labour of children, by the parents or the guardian, in return of any payment or benefit to be received, to be void.
2. The Employment of Children Act, 1938: The Act prevents employment in hazardous and various categories of unhealthy occupations for children. The Act prohibits the employment of children in any occupation connected with transport of passengers, goods or mail by railway, or a port authority within the limits of a port for children below 15 years of age.
3. The Factory Act, 1948: The Act defines the term ‘child’ as a person who has not completed the fifteen years of age. A young person is either a child or an adolescent, who has completed his fifteen years but not eighteen years. It prevents children from working under such establishments.
4. The Plantation Labour Act, 1951: The Act prohibits employment in such plantations for the children under 12 years of age. An adolescent between 15-18 years shall not be employed for work unless he is certified to be fit for work by a surgeon.
5. The Mines Act, 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children in mines, and also prohibits the presence of children in any area of a mine where any mining operation is being carried on. Children above or of 16 years or above may work under such establishment but shall submit a medical certificate of fitness for work.
6. The Merchant Act, 1958: The Act prohibits the employment of children on sea-going ships in any capacity, who are below 15 years of age.
7. The Apprentices Act, 1961: The Act prohibits engagement of children as an apprentice or to undergo apprenticeship training in any designated trade unless at least 14 years of age has been attained and prescribed standards of education and physical fitness are satisfied.
8. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961: The Act also prohibits the employments related to motor transport undertaking for children under 15 years of age. The adolescents are prohibited from working under this Act unless a certificate of fitness is provided.
9. Bidi and Cigar works (conditions of Employment) Act, 1966: The Act prohibits the employment of any child from working in any industrial premises. The Act defines the term ‘child' as a person who has not attained fourteen years of age.
10. Shops and Commercial Establishment Act, 1969: The Act prohibits the employment of children in different state shops and commercial establishments Acts. The minimum age of employment in shops and the commercial establishment is 12/14/15 years in different states.
11. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986: The Act aims to prohibit the engagement of children in various specific employments and to regulate the conditions of work of children in certain other employments.
There are many laws and regulatory departments to remove child labour in India, yet it is not as effective as it should be in controlling ongoing child labour practices. This may be controlled only when there is cooperation from all the sections of the society and the law enforcement agencies. The main focus of Government of India should be on educating and nurturing the children, controlling the population of the country and providing sufficient or allocate necessary funds for the removal of child labour from the gross domestic product of India. The remedy for the same lies mainly in the hands of the government, and it should take necessary steps to eradicate poverty by providing employment to the parents of such children. Government should provide for more stricter penalties for the violators of child labour laws.