Thousands of children working as domestic help and in bonded labour cannot be rescued if the proposed amendments to the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act are passed by the Parliament, child rights organisations fear.
Earlier this year, the Union Cabinet gave its approval to move official amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012.
The proposed amendments allowed children below 14 years of age to work in family enterprises or the entertainment industry, and the list of prohibited occupations has been reduced to three from the earlier 83.
Calling these amendments of the proposed act “regressive and “counter-productive”, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi said: “In all, 2,222 children were rescued from Delhi under bonded labour, child labour and trafficking law. But if the present act is to become the law then we will not be able to rescue even a single child.”
He was attending the National consultation convened by Bachpan Bachao Andolan on Monday to discuss Child Labour Prevention and rehabilitation Act and JJ Act.
A total of 5,252 child labourers were rescued across the country between January 1, 1010, to December 31, 2014.
Out of these, 3,022 were below 14 years of age, while 2,231 fell in the 14-17 years group.
Highlighting the problems faced while rescuing kids from family enterprises, Satyarthi said: “In the name of family establishments, child labour is flourishing. I have freed a thousand children working in family establishments, who were virtually slaves. They were trafficked and were also victims of bonded labour and their family members were making them work.”
According to Bachpan Bachao Andolan figures, 21 per cent of rescued children (below 14 years) were working with their families.
As per data, almost 82 per cent of the children were rescued from the establishments operating in residential areas.
“No rescue can be made from family establishments or hazardous occupations once the new law is in place. Large numbers of kids are working in zari industries and small scale industries, but under the new law they do not come under hazardous industries, so no action can be taken,” Satyarthi said.
Three hazardous occupations have been identified as mines, explosives and inflammables, and hazardous processes as per the Factories Act, 1948 under the new definition.
“Another shocking fact is that, earlier, we had 83 hazardous occupations, which have been brought down to just three. It is a very serious issue, as it means that children will be allowed to work in many occupations where they were not allowed to work in the past,” Satyrathi said.
Satyarthi has also decided to write a recommendation after the national consultation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other parliamentarians.
“I will write to the Prime Minister suggesting recommendation of the consultation. I will also write to all the leaders of political parties and parliamentarians. Child labour law will be regressive than being progressive if these concerns are not addressed,” he said.