M A I N   N E W S

No employing child labour from Tuesday
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 8
The ban on child labour will come into force in just two days from today on October 10, but there appears little cheer in store for a large number of working children whose future, NGOs say, will become uncertain in the absence of a comprehensive rehabilitation package. Incidentally, as per Unicef report -World’s Children 2006- India has the largest number of working children.

The government had recently amended the Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. It now includes child domestic work as a form of hazardous labour and states that action can be taken against those who employ children up to the age of 14 years in domestic work, including homes, hotels, motels, tea shops, resorts or any other recreational centre. The same Act also bans the employment of children in factories, mines and hazardous work.

The decision to ban employment of children as domestic help or servants in even non-hazardous jobs was taken on the recommendation of the Technical Advisory Committee on Child Labour, headed by the Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. The committee said that children in domestic labour were often subjected to physical violence, psychological traumas and at times even sexual abuse. It added that such incidents go unnoticed as they took place in closed confines.

The Labour Ministry had already prohibited government employees from engaging children as domestic help, issuing a notification warning that anyone employing children would be liable to prosecution and other penal action, including fine and a one-year jail term. It is also planning to strengthen and expand its rehabilitation scheme of the National Child Labour Project, which now covers 250 child labour endemic districts.

While the government gets set to crack the whip, several NGOs working in the area feel that a ban without a proper rehabilitation plan will backfire. They have raised questions on how the government will ensure the effective implementation of the Act that bars children under 14 years of age from working as domestic help or servants at roadside eateries and other non-hazardous jobs.

Contending that the majority of domestic workers in the country are in the age-group 12 to 16 years, NGO Save the Children also questions the limiting of the Act to domestic labour to 14 years, saying that the cut-off limit needs to be raised to 18 years. “The Act needs to have much more to protect children,” it says.

Coordinator of 24-hour helpline “Childline” Shanta Nath is certain that the successful implementation of the Act will just not be possible in the absence of a rehabilitation programme for rescued children. “It would not be a success unless we are able to successfully rehabilitate rescued children. Some of these children are sole earners and supporting their families...where will they go? Just taking steps to prevent child labour is not enough. Moreover, it would also be difficult for implementing agencies to locate domestic workers unless society is sensitised,” she says.

According to Save the Children national programme manager Manab Ray, after the recent amendment action can be taken against anyone who employs children less than 14 years for domestic work in homes or hotels. “But our research shows that 74 per cent of child domestic workers are between the age group 12 to 16 years and this amendment leaves a large chunk of child domestic workers out in the cold,” Ray adds.



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