CHILD LABOUR LAWS IN INDIA
Child labour laws in India is considered as a hothouse of child labour worldwide due to which the country has been a subject to certain special legal provisions under various laws as children living in India are vulnerable and need safety and security against physical and moral abuse. The United Nations Organizations had reported in its census 1991 that India has the maximum child labour in the world (20%). The main reason behind this deteriorating condition is that most of the poor families in India don’t have any choice other than indulging their children to work instead of sending them to school. On the other hand, what is taught to the children in their schools has turned futile due to their ignorant parents. They are unaware of the necessity of education for their children and hence, the latter are forced to work in hazardous or unhealthy condition.
However, the government of India has taken many initiatives to annihilate this issue. Many previously enacted laws including the Employment of Children Act, 1938 failed terribly as they did not address the issue of poverty which was the main reason behind child labour. In 1987, the National Policy on Child Labour was set up to eradicate child labour. Many other laws and policies have been enacted in accordance with the International Labour Conference Resolution in 1979 with the aim of child welfare enshrined in our national Charter. HIGHLIGHTS OF COMPANIES
The Constitution of India through its fundamental rights (part III) and the Directive Principles of State Policy (part IV) laid down various means to uproot child labour. Article 21 A provides for free and compulsory education to all children between 6 to 14 years of age. Article 23 prohibits forced labour and human trafficking. Article 24 prohibits children below the age of 14 to be employed in a factory or mine or any hazardous industry. This Article was upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of MC Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu and others, also known as the child labour abolition case, where the court took Suo moto action against the working of children in a cracker company. Article 39 (e) requires the State to protect children and young people from entering avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Article 39 (f) protects children against exploitation and moral and material abandonment. Article 45 under the Directive Principles of State Policy for free and compulsory education for all children under the age of 14.
The Factory Act of 1881 was the first Act to govern the employment of children and their hours of work. Later, the Child labour Act of 1933 was passed on the recommendation of a Commission established in 1929 to completely prohibit the employment of children below the age of 14. The Factories Act 1948 also prohibited the working of children under the age of 14 and at the same time regulated the work of children between the age of 15 and 18 years to factories which provided them with a certificate of fitness and also regulated their time of work to less than four and half hours in a day. The Child Labour Act (Regulation and Prohibition) 1986 repealed previously enacted Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 and the Employment of Children Act, 1938. The Child Labour Act of 1986 is inclusive of both, i.e. prohibition of work in some industries and regulation of work in others. It gave power to the government to appoint various inspectors to enforce the Act and also provided for penalties for the violation of its provisions. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 provides for free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years of age. The Mines Act 1952 prohibits the employment of children less than 16 years of age. It also states that children above 16 years will only be allowed to work in mines under adult supervision. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is also considered as an effective means to combat child labour as some States use it as a tool to keep a check on employers who employ children and pay them low wages. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 provides for free and compulsory education to children aged between 6 to 14 years and prevent them from child labour. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000 deals with the exploitation of children under the age of 18. It was enacted in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of a child in 1989. Recently, this law came through a lot of criticism after the Delhi Gang rape due to which the age of juveniles was lowered to 16 from 18.
At the International level, India is a signatory to many international treaties like the ILO Forced Labour Convention, UN Convention on the Rights of the child and ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, which are programmes to combat child labour. The Government also regularly launches various programmes for the same purpose. Many Institutions such as the National Institute of Labour Development and VV Giri National Labour Institute have also been a helpful institution to ensure the implementation and success of child labour prevention laws. Rabindranath Tagore once said,
“Bestow blessings on those
Little, innocent lives
Bloomed on Earth,
Who has brought the message
of joy from the heavenly garden.”