Outright Ban on Child Labor in India

Article Source :The Wall Street Journal

Date of Issue :18th May, 2015

Title of Article :How the Family Got in the Way of an Outright Ban on Child Labor in India

Details :The government approved a set of amendments to India’s child labor law last week to allow children under 14 years of age to work in non-hazardous family enterprises, some entertainment industries and sport so long as they work after school or during vacations.

Though it drew the line at allowing children to work in the circus, the cabinet decision also drew a lot of criticism from child rights activists because it rowed back on a plan to outlaw all child labor for those below age 14.

The Bharatiya Janata Party–led cabinet said that a total ban–as proposed in the Child Labor Amendment Bill 2012 — had to be balanced against the need to maintain the country’s social fabric and bearing in mind the socio-economic conditions.

“In a large number of families, children help their parents in their occupations like agriculture, artisanship etc. and while helping the parents, children also learn the basics of occupations,” the government said.

Some of the amendments were welcomed by child rights campaigners. For instance, under the changes, anyone aged 14 to 18 would be protected by law from hazardous occupations and punishments for employing children illegally would be strengthened. A fund to help support children rescued from illegal child labor also fell into the proposed amendments.

Others fear that family enterprises will be interpreted to include menial labor and caste-related professions, limiting a child’s freedom to choose a profession. “There is a lot of bangle making, leather work and cotton plucking at home. All that has its own hazards.” said Komal Ganotra, the director of policy and advocacy at international nonprofit Child Rights and You.

CRY has worked with underprivileged Indian children since 1979. “Normally these children work long hours. The equality of opportunity for development is limited,” said Ms. Ganotra.According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, before the amended bill is voted on by law makers, the Law Ministry will circulate it around concerned ministries and nonprofits for comment.

The NCPCR, a government body, declined to comment on the amendments until this stage of the process is reached. India is reforming its child labor law, made in 1986, to bring it in line with a 2009 law that makes schooling compulsory for everyone aged between 6 and 14.

Although the changes only allow children to work in family business outside school hours, Ms. Ganotra said that school children with jobs are more likely to drop out of education. “If a child goes to school, comes back, works for four to five hours, what are the other rights of the child? Where is the right to recreation?” she said.

India has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. However, it expressed reservations about Article 32 of the convention, which addresses child labor, stating that such bans can only be instituted progressively, given the economic condition of the country.