Earlier in January this year, Union Minister of Labour and Employment Mr. Mallikarjun Kharge, chaired the first meeting of the newly constituted Central Advisory Board on Child Labour. Citing child labour as a matter of grave concern staring in the face of our country, Mr. Kharge said that Ministry of Labour and Employment as the nodal agency to implement Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, (CLPRA) has to further accentuate its initiatives to ensure a safe and fulfilled future for the children of our country.
It should be noted that at present, CLPRA prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in 18 occupations and 65 processes specified in Schedules A and B of the act as mentioned in Section 3. The Act further regulates the working conditions for children in the occupations and processes that are not listed in Schedules A and B. It stipulates provisions for regulated working hours, hours of rest, weekly holidays, provision for furnishing of information regarding employment of a child labour to Inspector etc.
Global March Against Child Labour appreciates the formation of Central Advisory Board facilitated by Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India to strengthen the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act 1986 with an intent to amend the existing Act proposing a complete ban on employment of Children up to 14 years of age more pertinently in the wake of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE), under which every child in the age group of 6-14 years is entitled for free and compulsory education provided by the State. It is also understood that recently in a meeting held with all the State Secretaries and the representatives from Central Government Ministries almost all the participants were unanimous on the issue of complete ban on employment of Children up to the age of 14 years. According to the estimates of Non Governmental Organizations, there are about 60 million child labourers in India. Global March Against Child Labour strongly feels that by applying a blanket ban on employment of children up to the age of 14 years, Government of India would make a major breakthrough in aligning its legal framework with the provisions laid down in Convention 138 (adopted by ILO in 1973), on minimum age of employment which is yet to be ratified by India.
It is also understood that funds to the tune of Rs. 21,000 crore have been allocated by Government of India during current financial year for implementation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and about 19 crore (190 million) children were covered. Under MGNREGA, the budget outlay for the current financial year is Rs.40, 000 crore and in this financial year employment to 3.31 crore households has already been provided. Last year 5.49 crore households had benefitted from the scheme. Under Mid Day Meal Scheme fund allocated during current financial year is Rs.10.380 crore. 10.46 crore children benefitted during 2010-11. Under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme of Ministry of Women & Child Development, during current financial year, funds to the tune of Rs. 270 crore have been allocated and about 94,310 children benefitted during 2010-11.
“If the momentum of these initiatives is sustained by Government of India, it could mean a quantum leap towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goals amidst the overarching backdrop of poverty alleviation agenda and fulfilment of Education For All objectives that India is strongly committed to” said Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson Global March Against Child Labour.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi further said that, India is one of the very few nations that have not ratified Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour (adopted by the ILO in 1999). He earnestly called upon the Government of India to take proactive measures that can bring the legal framework of our country in line with the provisions stipulated in Convention 182, on worst forms of child labour demanding which Global March Against Child Labour came into its very existence earlier in 1998 and marched across 103 countries covering over 80,000 kilometres to raise socio-political awareness on the subject of child labour. Since 1998, the Global March and its legion of partners have focussed on promoting universal ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 138 and No. 182 which are stepping stones for the elimination of all forms of child labour, as well as tangible initiatives that bolster the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments related to the protection of children.
Mr. Satyarthi further stated that India is adequately prepared to ratify convention 182 which calls for abolition of all forms of undeniably worst forms of child labour on account of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; use procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities in production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties. The issue of undeniably worst forms of child labour is largely addressed in India under various acts. Slavery, Debt Bondage, forced, compulsory and other forms of bonded labour are banned vide the Constitution of India, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography, or for pornographic performances or procuring or offering of child for illicit activities in particular for production and trafficking of drugs has been banned under Indian Penal Code Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956 and the Narcotic Drug Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
Mr. Satyarthi finally said that the main bottleneck in the way of Government of India to ratify Conventions 138 and 182 are addressing forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict and appropriately raising the age of employment in hazardous occupations from 14 to 18 years in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. It is worth noting that a provision already exists in Section 26 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of children Act 2000 highlighting that whoever ostensibly procures a juvenile or child (an individual less than 18 years) for the purpose of any hazardous employment, keeps him in bondage, withholds his/her earnings or uses such earnings for his own purposes shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall be liable to fine. This in a way eases the job of the Government to ratify Conventions 138 on Minimum Age of Employment and 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour which are two of the eight core ILO Labour Conventions that have been pending for a long time now reflecting poorly on India as a nation which is a founder member of the International Labour Organization.
India’s case for ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182 prepared by Global March Against Child Labour can be accessed by clicking here.