“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children “-Mahatma Gandhi
India has passed a number of laws on child labour since Independence and has always claimed that children of the country are a priority as they are the future of the country. But in the recent past our Government seems to have found new priorities and has neglected the previous.
19th July, 2016 the Union Cabinet of the Government of India gave its approval for moving statutory amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and had it passed by the Rajya Sabha. While there are some important provisions such as free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14, the bill suffers from several flaws making it seem complicit in promoting child labour instead of being a measure eradicating it.
The amendments in the bill propose to allow children to work in family enterprises. There is no thorough detail on what the family enterprises may entail, making it very risky for children to be exploited by close relatives or people claiming to be relatives. A report prepared by a child rights grassroots movement called Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) mentioned that “of the 5,254 children rescued, one-fifth worked with their families or were part of a family-run trade.” [i](SEBASTIAN, 2015) With the new amendment in place that allows children to work for any family trade one can imagine how many children will be left to be exploited.
Another setback among the many others is that age of a child has been reduced to 14 years and 14-18 years come under the bracket of adolescents. Also in the amendments is that the list of prohibited occupations has been reduced to just three, including mines, inflammable substances and explosives. Earlier, the Child Labour law prohibited employment of a child in 18 occupations and 65 processes. These amendments would mean that children will be allowed to work in family-run industries like carpets, embroidery, agriculture and other forms of domestic labour.
In order to spread awareness and bring a consensus against this Bill, the National Action Coordination Group, Delhi Chapter- Ending Violence against Children (NACG-EVAC) held a meeting with the various stakeholders of child rights (including the YWCA of India) and put forth its recommendations, which has been submitted to the government.
The YWCA of India collaborated with the NACG- EVAC group and organized a ‘Raahgiri’ event in Delhi that provided a perfect platform and a huge opportunity for us to engage with people on the concern of Child Labor. The volunteer team distributed handbills with slogans printed on them to more than 500 people. A huge crowd gathered to know what the campaign as about and pledged their support by participating in the signature campaign. In a span of one hour we managed to get more than 300 signatures on the pledge banner that read, ‘I pledge that I will not engage anyone below 18 years of age in any form of Child Labor’. Each person who signed received a sleeve sticker. We have attached the design of the sticker, handbill, and signature board for your reference.
As a part of the NACG- EVAC group the YWCA of India has volunteered to have a signature campaign pan India, so that more signatures can be collected and sent to the higher authorities against this bill. Since we got such a good response from most of the Local Associations for the Women’s Reservation Bill signature campaign we are hoping to get a bigger response this time for the Campaign against Child Labour.
- Conduct a signature campaign at your local associations and spread awareness on the issue of Child Labour and abuse.
- Get people to pledge that they will not engage anyone below 18 years of age in any form of Child Labor.