Current Public Administration Magazine (March - 2014) - "Society and Culture"


Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

Society and Culture


Problem of child labour

The problem of child labour continues to pose a challenge before the nation. Government has been taking various pro-active measures to tackle this problem. However, considering the magnitude and extent of the problem and that it is essentially a socio-economic problem inextricably linked to poverty and illiteracy, it requires concerted efforts from all sections of the society to make a dent in the problem.

According to the Census 2001 figures there are 1.26 crore working children in the age group of 5-14 as compared to the total child population of 25.2 crore. There are approximately 12 lakhs children working in the hazardous occupations/processes which are covered under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act i.e. 18 occupations and 65 processes. However, as per survey conducted by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2004-05, the number of working children is estimated at 90.75 lakh. It shows that the efforts of the Government have borne the desired fruits.

Way back in 1979, Government formed the first committee called Gurupadswamy Committee to study the issue of child labour and to suggest measures to tackle it. The Committee examined the problem in detail and made some far-reaching recommendations. It observed that as long as poverty continued, it would be difficult to totally eliminate child labour and hence, any attempt to abolish it through legal recourse would not be a practical proposition. The Committee felt that in the circumstances, the only alternative left was to ban child labour in hazardous areas and to regulate and ameliorate the conditions of work in other areas. It recommended that a multiple policy approach was required in dealing with the problems of working children.

Based on the recommendations of Gurupadaswamy Committee, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986. The Act prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others. The list of hazardous occupations and processes is progressively being expanded on the recommendation of Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee constituted under the Act.

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In consonance with the above approach, a National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987. The Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations & processes in the first instance. The Action Plan outlined in the Policy for tackling this problem is as follows:

  • Legislative Action Plan for strict enforcement of Child Labour Act and other labour laws to ensure that children are not employed in hazardous employments, and that the working conditions of children working in non-hazardous areas are regulated in accordance with the provisions of the Child Labour Act. It also entails further identification of additional occupations and processes, which are detrimental to the health and safety of the children.

  • Focusing of General Developmental Programmes for Benefiting Child Labour - As poverty is the root cause of child labour, the action plan emphasizes the need to cover these children and their families also under various poverty alleviation and employment generation schemes of the Government.

  • Project Based Plan of Action envisages starting of projects in areas of high concentration of child labour. Pursuant to this, in 1988, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme was launched in 9 districts of high child labour endemicity in the country. The Scheme envisages running of special schools for child labour withdrawn from work. In the special schools, these children are provided formal/non-formal education along with vocational training, a stipend of Rs.150 per month, supplementary nutrition and regular health check ups so as to prepare them to join regular mainstream schools. Under the Scheme, funds are given to the District Collectors for running special schools for child labour. Most of these schools are run by the NGOs in the district.

Government has accordingly been taking proactive steps to tackle this problem through strict enforcement of legislative provisions along with simultaneous rehabilitative measures. State Governments, which are the appropriate implementing authorities, have been conducting regular inspections and raids to detect cases of violations. Since poverty is the root cause of this problem, and enforcement alone cannot help solve it, Government has been laying a lot of emphasis on the rehabilitation of these children and on improving the economic conditions of their families.

Constitutional Provisions

Article 21 A

Right to Education

  • The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State, by law, may determine.

Article 24

  • Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.
  • No child below the age fourteen years shall be employed in work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

Article 39

  • The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

The National Policy on Child Labour declared in August, 1987, contains the action plan for tackling the problem of Child Labour. It envisages:

  • A legislative action plan: The Government has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 to prohibit the engagement of children in certain employments and to regulate the conditions of work of children in certain other employments.

  • Focusing and convergence of general development programmes for benefiting children wherever possible, A Core Group on convergence of various welfare schemes of the Government has been constituted in the Ministry of Labour & Employment to ensure that, the families of the Child Labour are given priority for their upliftment.

  • Project-based action plan of action for launching of projects for the welfare of working children in areas of high concentration of Child Labour.

Main features of the directions of Supreme Court in their Judgment as on 10th December 1996

On 10th December 1996 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.465/1986 on MC Mehta verses state of Tamil Nadu the Supreme Court of India, gave certain directions on the issue of elimination of child labour. The main features of judgment are as under:

  • Survey for identification of working children;
  • Withdrawal of children working in hazardous industry and ensuring their education in appropriate institutions;
  • Contribution @ Rs.20,000/- per child to be paid by the offending employers of children to a welfare fund to be established for this purpose;
  • Employment to one adult member of the family of the child so withdrawn from work and it that is not possible a contribution of Rs.5,000/- to the welfare fund to be made by the State Government;
  • Financial assistance to the families of the children so withdrawn to be paid -out of the interest earnings on the corpus of Rs.20,000/25,000 deposited in the welfare fund as long as the child is actually sent to the schools;
  • Regulating hours of work for children working in non-hazardous occupations so that their working hours do not exceed six hours per day and education for at least two hours is ensured. The entire expenditure on education is to be borne by the concerned employer.
  • The implementation of the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is being monitored by the Ministry of Labour and compliance of the directions have been reported in the form of Affidavits on 05.12.97, 21.12.1999, 04.12.2000, 04.07.2001 and 04-12-2003 to the Hon’ble Court on the basis of the information received from the State/UT Governments.

The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour is a global programme launched by the International Labour Organization in December, 1991. India was the first country to join it in 1992 when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ILO. The MOU that expired on 31.12.1996 has thereafter been extended from time to time and has recently been extended till 31st December, 2006. The long-term objective of IPEC is to contribute to the effective abolition of child labour. Its immediate objectives are:

  • Enhancement of the capability of ILO constituents and NGOs to design, implement and evaluate programmes for child labour;
  • To identify interventions at community and national levels which could serve as models for replication; and
  • Creation of awareness and social mobilization for securing elimination of child labour

Questions:

  1. Examine the issues related to the child labour and available provisions for them .

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