‘Child labour ban seems to remain on paper’

A notification on October 10, 2006, the CLPRA specifically prohibited employing children below 14 years in domestic and hospitality sectors.

New Delhi: It has been half a decade since
the government prohibited employment of children below 14
years as domestic help, but the ban seems to be on papers only
as the "modern-day slavery" still continues unabated across
the country, activists say.

Through a notification on October 10, 2006, the Child
Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (CLPRA) specifically
prohibited employing children below 14 years in domestic and
hospitality sectors.

Five years on, unfortunately child labour in domestic
sector, which is tantamount to modern-day slavery, is still
rampant, said Thomas Chandy of NGO Save the Children India.

"Just in Kolkata alone, Save the Children estimates that
there are over 50,000 child domestic workers who live with the
employers. There are thousands more who work in middle-class
homes but don`t stay with their employer," Chandy said.

Ashok Kumar, National Convener of Campaign Against Child
Labour (CACL), said the ban on employing children in domestic
and hospitality sectors was a progressive addition to the 1986
Child Labour Act.

"Neither any enforcement mechanism is seen working, nor a
comprehensive rehabilitation plan is in place even after five
years," Kumar said.

For example, he pointed out, there are about 50,000 child
domestic workers in Delhi. Only 23 of them are known to have
been rescued till 2009.

"Unless employment of children is made a cognisable
offence under the CLPRA, there will be no deterrence for the
employers," he said.

However, Dola Mahapatra of NGO ChildFund India said by
making laws only we cannot curb these social menaces.

"There needs to be proper infrastructure to ensure the
ban is implemented. Besides, awareness and community
engagement is highly required to help curb the menace," he

The activists also pointed out that the government has no
proper enumeration of the children working in those sectors.

While the Census shows a rise in the number of child
labourers from 11.3 million in 1991 to 12.6 million in 2001,
the National Sample Survey says there has been a decline in
their numbers, down from 13.3 million in 1993-94 to 8.6
million in 2004-05.

According to the 2001 Census, 1.86 lakh children below
the age of 14 are engaged as child domestic workers, while
70,934 are working in dhabas and other eateries. This brings
the number of children to 2,56,439 working in both the
domestic and hospitality sectors.

But the real figures could be several times more than
what the government estimates show, the activists said.

Children working as domestic help are forced to work long
hours, without food and either paid minimal wages or no pay at

"This invisibility (of child workers who stay with their
employers) is a key reason for their vulnerability to
exploitation and physical and psychological abuse," Chandy

The activists also demanded that the CLPRA needs to be
amended urgently following the enactment of Right to Education
(RTE) Act.

"There surely was a sound rationale for the CLPRA to be
enacted but that logic is now a `non sequitur`. You can`t have
one law that promises elementary education to all children and
another one regulating child labour," Chandy said.

"With the RTE is now in place, there just cannot be
another law to regulate child labour," Kumar seconded.

If the government is really serious about implementing
the RTE, it should not waste more time in amending the CLPRA,
the activists said.


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