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Background


Child labour is the biggest impediment in the way of national development. According to the 66th round of National Statistical Survey Organization (NSSO) India is home to 4.9 million child labourers. This figure is anywhere between 50-55 million according to the estimates of civil society organizations.

Government of India has taken several progressive steps to address the issue of child labour by putting in place various legislations, policies and social programmes that prevent exploitation of children. Additionally Child Rights’ Organizations, Trade Unions, Teachers’ Unions, Employers’ Organizations, UN agencies and other stakeholders have also played a significant role in protection of child rights in their individual mandates. This has been recently proved true by the collaborative action of stakeholders in putting forth a strong demand for amending the Criminal Laws of India by defining and criminalizing trafficking in persons and their subsequent employment. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 which came into force on 02 April 2013 exemplifies the collective will of the stakeholders  in   curbing  trafficking.   The  criminal  process  of  trafficking   results   in  unabated exploitation of children and exposes them to physical and sexual exploitation, slavery and slavery like conditions and servitude further feeding into the child labour force.

Child labour cannot be looked in isolation and must be viewed in the overarching context of denial of right of children to free and compulsory education and inadequate implementation of the existing laws enacted for upholding the rights of the child. Strong deterrent in the law reinforced by effective and time bound implementation and overall rehabilitation and robust social protection framework is mandatory for sustainable elimination of child labour.

Last twelve months have been extremely fruitful in shaping the policy landscape for protecting the rights of children. Within months after the Minister of Labour and Employment announced Government of India’s strong will to amend the child labour law for aligning it with other progressive laws like Right to Education Act and India’s International Commitment for ratifying ILO Conventions 138  and Conventions 182  on  minimum  age  of  employment  and  worst  forms  of  child  labour,  Child  Labour

 

(Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill was cleared by the Union Cabinet in August 2012 and was tabled in Rajya Sabha on 04 December 2012. The bill was subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and is expected to be re-drafted before being tabled in the Parliament again.

 

All the stakeholders therefore have a unique opportunity to contribute to the consultative process of amendment of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLPRA) by bringing to the table concrete suggestions that would not only help bringing the existing child labour law with other enabling provisions of our legislative framework but will also help ideating for provisions for the proposed child labour law that will address interlinked issues of trafficking of children for forced labour (in the wake of recent amendments in section 370 of the Indian Penal Code and introduction of a new section 370A) , accountability of law enforcement agencies towards rescue and comprehensive socio-economic rehabilitation of child labourers and their families.