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Child labour law lacks teeth, says CRY

Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Over a year after issue of the notification by the Union Ministry of Labour banning children from working in residences and the hospitality sector, Child Rights and You (CRY), the countrywide ‘enabling organisation’, feels it has just about remained a paper tiger.

Far from putting an end to some of the most insidious forms of child labour, assumed by the Ministry, the problem persists and shows how little things have changed, a report compiled by CRY on the impact of the implementation of the notification says. Reports in the media and real-life experiences corroborate this.

The organisation recalled how it had highlighted that there would not be any effect if the gaps it found in the notification were not covered.

For instance, the notification prohibits children working in homes, hotels, ‘dhabas’ and other recreation centres, but it was unclear whether this applied to the household manufacturing sector (small family-run units) where a vast number of children were employed.

CRY’s report also finds that the enforcement mechanism was weak and there was virtually no provision for rehabilitation.

It points out that the conviction rate for the already existing Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, was abysmally low -- so low, that it was hardly a deterrent for employers. Without strengthening enforcement mechanism and provisions for rehabilitation, this step has little meaning.

Child rights ignored

Most importantly, the notification had totally ignored the children’s right to safe and facilitating environment for development, including health, nutrition and education needs. The ban could not be successful as it failed to address the root causes of why children prefer work rather than going to school.

Even if the current legislation is rigorously enforced, even if rehabilitation processes are perfect, the supply chain of cheap child labour will always be available, as long as causative factors remain unaddressed.

The causes, it lists out, include lack of a coherent education policy, insufficient schools, poverty, marginalisation and migration -- situations that force children into work.

CRY also believes that child labour is largely the outcome of social inequality. Poverty makes parents force children into labour. The numbers are alarming because child rights have not been understood or taken seriously. And most importantly, children cannot fight back and are forced to continue work much against their wish in majority of the cases.

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