New Delhi, October 9: Save the Children calls for the immediate amendment of the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (CLPRA) to bring it in line with the Right to Education Act.
Through a notification on October 10, 2006, the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (CLPRA) specifically prohibited employing children below 14 years as domestic help. Unfortunately, five years on, child domestic work, which is tantamount to modern-day slavery, is still endemic.
“Just in Kolkata alone, Save the Children estimates that there are over 50,000 child domestic workers who are living with their employers. There are thousands more who work in middle-class homes but do not stay with the employer,” Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children, said.
Children working as domestic help are forced to work long hours, without food, are either paid minimal wages or not paid at all, and as they live with the employer, are largely invisible to the outside world. This invisibility is a key reason for the vulnerability of child domestic workers to exploitation and physical and psychological abuse.
To make things worse, there is a poor track record of enforcement of laws. Little has been done so far to rescue child domestic workers and to punish their employers. In one parliamentary session in 2009, then Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Harish Rawat, made a written statement that under the CLPRA, there had been seven prosecutions and four convictions from 2007-2009! This sums up the deplorable state of affairs.
“There surely was a sound rationale for the CLPRA to be enacted but that logic is now a non sequitur. You cannot have one law that promises elementary education to all children and another one regulating child labour. With the RTE now in place, there just cannot be another law which regulates child labour,” Chandy said. The ‘regulation’ part of the CLPR is in direct contradiction with the Constitutional guarantee of free and compulsory elementary education for children between the ages of 6 and 14.
Also, approximately 70 per cent of children in child labour are in agriculture. Yet, this category of child labour is left out of the purview of the CLPRA. Any law that is mandated with tackling child labour cannot overlook the category of children in agriculture if it is serious about eliminating child labour given that the majority of child workers are in agriculture.
If the government is indeed serious about implementing the RTE, then it must waste no more time in amending the CLPRA. India is one of the very few countries that has not ratified ILO Convention 182 on banning the worst forms of child labour.
According to the 2001 census, there are 12.6 million children under the age of 14 engaged in child labour. This is surely a conservative estimate. Civil society places the number of child labour at a more realistic 40 million or so.