The upper house of the Indian Parliament has just passed the much awaited Child Labour Amendment Bill. If the Lok Sabha also clears this bill, we will not see an end to child labour any time soon.
It’s always good to walk a few more miles but we should not celebrate unless we have reached our destination.
Laws cannot be made merely with good intentions. They need strong content to check crimes, to safeguard all citizens and uphold justice irrespective of social or economic situation. The amendment in the child labour law may have good intent and moves gradually towards our destination, but I cannot say I am happy for the millions of child labourers in our country.
This day has come after a long struggle which began in 1986 when the child labour law was enacted. A weak law on child labour may have severe implications on the economic, social, human rights and moral well-being of society. It seems to me that a political stage has been set to fail our children once again due to the existing apathy, complacency and a backward mind set.
First and foremost, millions of our children are victims of poverty and social discrimination — how long do we intend to further victimise them and maintain this status-quo? Secondly, when a large number of youth and parents of these children are out of work then why are children still made to work? Thirdly, India might be attaining new economic heights it is not sustainable unless quality education is provided to every child. Moreover, when we are striving towards programs such as Make in India, why do we make ourselves vulnerable by allowing child labour in supply chains under the garb of so-called family enterprises?
Finally, India is an emerging world leader, but what morals do we stand for when we don’t protect our own children from exploitation. The reduction in the number of hazardous occupations and processes from the existing list of 83 to three in the prohibited list and allowing them to work in all the other industries and processes in the name of “helping” the family is illustrative of that. If the law is passed this way, the children would be working, along with their families, in bidi making, zari, carpets, leather, plastic, metal, slaughter houses and other such industries. I am afraid that children of seven or eight can also be employed as domestic help because of the lack of monitoring in school attendance. It is imperative to prevent re-trafficking of children in labour by ensuring accountability of officials and comprehensive rehabilitation. I hope that our political class will demonstrate courage to take bold steps in putting an end to all forms of child labour up to the age of 14, and prohibit employment of child labour in all hazardous occupations at least by maintaining the previous list of 83.
I continue to have utmost faith in and expectations of our parliamentary democracy, and I know they have to hear the voices of millions of children who are not voting today.
I make an earnest appeal to members of the Lok Sabha and beckon their conscience to recognize that politics isn’t merely about the next election but is also a moral obligation to the next generation.
We need to enact a law with no loopholes. Let this be the last generation that has been exploited in the name of illiteracy, poverty or helplessness. The country is looking at our Parliament to end child labour now.