World day against child labour: India yet to get its act together

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ Zee Research Group

A deadly combination of poor mapping of the domestic child labour menace in the country and low rate of conviction of offenders threatens to derail the efforts to free India of domestic child labour.

The lack of clarity in the Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) Act, 1986 in regard to child labour for work from home category has helped perpetuate the exploitation of children.

The domestic child labour situation in the country has got worse also due to poor regulatory framework to oversee the functioning of the ever mushrooming placement agencies in the country.

While the government maintains data of violators and the rate of prosecution, there is no official estimate available of all children employed as domestic child labour in the country.

Commenting on the lack of political will to enforce child protection in India, Kailash Satyarthi, founder of ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’, a Delhi-based NGO working against child labour said, “As against three lakh government inspections for tracking child labour including children working at home during 2007-12, prosecutions have been made only in 25,000 cases and conviction rate in these cases has been merely 10 per cent.”

Talking of growing number of domestic child labour cases, Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children India said, “The demand for child domestic workers is at an all-time high. In Delhi alone there are more than 100 placement agencies.”

The demand is high because the employer, placement agencies and traffickers gain by paying meagre sum of Rs 2500-3000 per month to the child’s family, he added, arguing for a special law to control these placement agencies.

As per Indian legislation, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 in India prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in 18 occupations and 65 processes including domestic workers or servants.

In 2012, the Union Cabinet cleared and amended the Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) Act, 1986. The bill has proposed a ban on all forms of child labour for children who have not completed 14 years of age. However, there is no ban as of now on children to work in home-based work. This means potential for uncontrolled employment of children in bidi-rolling, embroidery work and making fire crackers as these are sub-contracted work that children do at home.

The government, however, says it has rescued several under age children employed at home. According to a labour and employment ministry 2012 report, 1.2 lakh domestic child labourers were rescued from different parts of India in 2011-2012.The figure recorded in 2011-2012 is 32 percent higher over the previous year.

The report further shows that Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are the states with highest number of domestic child labour rescues during 2011-2012.

While Uttar Pradesh had 29947 number of rescued domestic child labourers, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh had 19673 and 17589 rescued domestic child labourers respectively.