From the Viewsroom

Fairy tale laws

Aditi Nigam | Updated on January 17, 2018


The grim truth behind the recently passed child labour Bill

Soon after the recent passage of the amendment Bill on child labour prohibition and regulation by Parliament came the disturbing expose on children as young as five years-old being used as labour in open mica pits of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. Seven of these children, reveals an per the expose by Thomson Reuters Foundation, have died in the past two months in these “ghost” mines in the process of creating “sparkle” in the global cosmetics and car paint industry that uses mica.

The naked eye is enough to see that the old Act was not being enforced. Yet, the recently passed Bill is a make-believe act. It aims to “completely” ban child labour. But, ironically, it allows family enterprises to involve children below 18 years to help after school hours, since there will be “no employee-employer equation”. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya says family enterprises have been exempted keeping in mind the socio-economic backwardness in the society. However, the harsh reality is that by exempting “family” enterprises, the Centre may well end up legitimising exploitation of the poor and vulnerable. For, it is this very socio-economic backwardness that consigns such families to the mercy of contractors, forcing them to involve their children to earn an extra penny.

The term “family enterprises” is deceptive. They fear that with the growing trend of outsourcing, when even organised industries are engaging contractors who farm out work to families at exploitative rates, especially in the home-based sector (embroidery, garments, tobacco, etc.), work by children will now be “legalised” and may even lead to them dropping out from school, especially girls.

Also, the provision to penalise parents who send their children to work, would mean punishing poor families. The stark truth is that laws, no matter how well-intentioned, remain vacuous if these are not enforced, followed by early conviction.

Senior Deputy Editor

Published on August 07, 2016

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