Elimination of Child Labour: India Needs Uniform Definition of ‘Child’ First

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • Child Labour: Meaning, Prevalence and India’s Commitment to Eliminate
  • Definition of ‘Child’ as per Various Laws/Initiatives in India
  • Suggestions in the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s Report
  • Other Suggestions Given in the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s Report

Why in News?

  • The 52nd report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, Textiles and Skill Development has been tabled in the parliament.
  • The report highlights that the implementation of a policy to eliminate child labour has a long way to go before achieving its ultimate goal by 2025 and the country needs a uniform definition of ‘child’ under various laws.

Child Labour: Meaning, Prevalence and India’s Commitment to Eliminate

  • According to the ILO, child labour includes any work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity, physical or mental development.
  • It perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty (due to poor education-health, less economic opportunities), denying children their fundamental rights and a better future.
  • Article 24 of the Constitution of India prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or in any hazardous employment.
  • According to the estimates by ILO, there are about 10.1 million working children between the age of 5 to 14 in India.
    • UP leads with an estimated 2.1 million child labourers and together with Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and MP constitute nearly 55% of the total working children in India.
  • The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (~14%) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (~5%). Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age.
  • The agriculture sector accounts for 70% of child labour, followed by services (20%) and industry (10%).
  • India resolves to eliminate child labour (by 2025) as per -
    • The commitments made by the county after ratification of ILO conventions, and
    • The target stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 to end all forms of child labour.

Definition of ‘Child’ as per Various Laws/Initiatives in India

  • As per the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 (CALPRA), ‘child’ means a person who has not completed his/her14 years of age.
    • The amendment made to the Act in 2016 defines the child falling in the age group of (14-18) years.
  • Under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, ‘Child’ means a male or female aged 6-14 years.
  • As per the Minimum Wages Act 1948 vide its amendment in 1986 a ‘child’ is defined as a person who has not completed his 14 years of age.
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 defines ‘child’ as a person who has not completed 18 years of age.
    • The term ‘adolescent’ is not defined in JJ Act, 2015.
    • The employment of children in contravention of the CALPRA Act is a cognizable offence, whereas under the JJ Act 2015, it is a non-cognizable
  • The Rashtriya Kishore SwasthyaKaryakaram under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare defines an adolescent as a person between 10-19 years.

Suggestions in the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s Report

  • The discrepancies (in the age of child as well as the provisions of offence) be examined with a view to ensuring that these do not lead to any ambiguity as well as delay in justice to the aggrieved children.
  • In the positive list of occupations and processes where adolescents can work, the labour ministry should not include those which are hazardous in nature.
  • The panel urged the labour ministry
    • To formulate suitable guidelines for the utilisation of the fund (collected as fine for child labour employer) and
    • To take immediate steps to increase the fine of Rs 20,000/(govt) contribution of Rs 5,000, keeping in view the inflation.
    • To ensure timely deposit of the amount in the account of the rescued child/adolescent so as to have their secure future.
  • It also suggested the ministry take steps for creating a district-level fund of appropriate amount for child labourers.
  • The panel recommended some stricter punishment in the form of cancellation of licence, attachment of property, etc., also need to be incorporated.

Other Suggestions Given in the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s Report

  • It noted that the functions of DPS (district project societies) with regard to uploading information of the rescued child on PENCIL Portal, awareness generation, facilitating vocational training, etc., have not been assigned to anyone.
    • It recommends that an appropriate mechanism in this regard be put in place in a time-bound manner.
  • It noted that there are inherent provisions in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 for action against police for not registering FIRs.
    • It desires that similar provisions need to be made in the CALPRA Act.
  • It also desires that the responsibility of reporting children selling goods or begging at traffic lights be assigned to the traffic police and they may also be held accountable for not reporting such instances.
  • The Committee also desires that steps be taken to establish a National Level Child Tracking Mechanism to facilitate coordination among the states/Centre.
    • This will facilitate prevention, tracing, tracking, rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of the rescued children.

Q1) What exactly is the PENCIL Portal?

The Platform for Effective Enforcement of No Child Labor (PENCIL) is an electronic platform that connects the Central Government to State Governments, Districts, Civil Society, and the General Public in order to realize the goal of a child labor-free society.

Q2) What is Article 23 of the Indian Constitution?

According to Article 23, traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

Source: Elimination of child labour a distant goal, country needs uniform definition of ‘child’ first: Parliamentary panel