Changes in child labour law not ideal

The solution lies in providing parents with jobs or providing them & the children skills

The Union Cabinet’s approval of proposed legislative amendments prohibiting the employment of children below the age of 14, but letting them work in family businesses and the entertainment sector as long as their schooling is not affected, seems unrealistic, if not morally unjustifiable. With one stroke of the pen the government wants to tackle both the amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, but in both these it has done hardly any service either to children or to their parents. It is well known that the working of the Right to Education exists mostly on paper, especially in remote villages and smaller cities and towns.

While it is true that impoverished families send their little children to work as they have no choice as their own incomes are inadequate to feed every mouth, the government, which needs to tackle this impoverishment, is evading this responsibility despite all the talk of providing “achche din” to everybody. One can see the government trying to tackle this issue in a positive manner, but it is only legalising the exploitation of children by paying lip service to both these laws.

As it says, it is trying to strike a balance between the realities of the socio-economic conditions of the families as well as the child’s right to education. But in doing so it is not really helping either the family or the children. How can a child who puts in several hours of school then go to work for another five to six hours? Forget about play, when does he study? Besides, who is going to ensure that the children are not exploited? Nowhere in the media reports is there any word about monitoring.

No parent would send a child to work except out of necessity. So the solution lies in providing the parents with adequate jobs or providing them and the children skills. With skills they can be self-employed; this is the only way to save them from exploitation. It is also well known that despite all the labour laws, exploitation of workers is already rampant. One cannot even imagine the situation in areas for which there are no laws nor any monitoring.
Fortunately the Cabinet decision has to go to Parliament where it is hoped that the parties come up with more enlightened solutions. There must be several solutions, but these cannot be expected from the bureaucracy. For this the legislators must be more imaginative and modern in their thinking.

( Source : editorial team )
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