[eebill] FW: social jurist article 're-cycling of child labour: result of defective laws

after how activist understanding of education law drove good law to stand waiting-to-be-abandoned I hope they have child-labour laws right! DMP public notice time ends July first week; would appreciate ideas / views on (updated) http://plan.architexturez.net/site/mpisg/f

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From: "ashok" <[email protected]>

Subject: article for comments,publication,circulation etc.
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2005 15:49:43 +0530

RE-CYLING OF CHILD LABOUR:RESULT OF DEFECTIVE LAWS
Ashok Agarwal, Lawyer and Civil Rights Activist



On June 01, 2005, close to 400 child labour are rescued from Madanpura area of Central Mumbai. Again on June 06, 2005, about 30 child labour are rescued from Najafgarh area of Delhi. All these children were engaged in the zari work and belong to Sitamarhi district of Bihar. Some of these children have already been sent and the rest are in the process of being sent back to their parents. On June 10, 2005, Maharashtra labour department in raids on gold-plating workshops at Bhuleshwar rescue 82 child labour and they are also to be repatriated to their home towns/villages. In the past also, several similar rescue operations have been undertaken and the rescued children have been sent back to their parents. Unfortunately, these children are again seen working with the same employers or new employers at the same locations or at new locations. This is nothing but re-cycling of child labour.



On June 02, 2005, with the help of my friend Juved, a social activist, I got an opportunity to personally visit fourteen to fifteen zari factories situated in the narrow streets of Zafarabad of East Delhi and found an average of about 25-30 children between the age group 4 to 14 years working in each such factory in most inhuman conditions. I was told with some definitiveness that in that very area, there are around five hundred zari factories in which not less than five thousand children are working. Almost all these children belong to Sitamarhi district of Bihar and have been brought here through middlemen on the pretext that they would become karigar (mechanic). The rescue operations are a welcome step but it loses its importance and purpose, the moment the rescued child is re-cycled as child labour. Society at large is rightly not taking these rescue operations seriously knowing well that these are very often simple gimmicks.



It is estimated that in our country there are about 10 crore child labour. In Delhi alone, there are about 14-15 lakhs child labour out of which more than 5 lakhs have been brought from outside Delhi. The number of child labour in the country is increasing day by day despite government's claim to the contrary. Why is all this happening? These are the children who are totally denied the educational opportunities and have been forced to engage themselves in one or the other work. Those keeping child labour must be severely punished but unless the educational opportunities are made available in the real sense, punishing the employers is not sufficient. In this article an attempt is made to examine the various laws dealing with child labour and juvenile justice, to pin point the lacunae in these very laws that are responsible for the unabated continuance and growth of child labour. At the outset, it appears that the present laws are so bad that these work for the perpetuation of the child labour system rather than for its complete abolition.



The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits the engagement of children in certain employments and regulates the conditions of children in certain other employments. Besides the fact that this Act needs to be amended in the light of Article 21-A of the Constitution of India which guarantees every child compulsory schooling up to the age of fourteen years, it is significant that this Act neither prohibits completely all forms of child labour nor it lays down any provision for educational opportunities to the rescued child labour.





The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 which of course in its preamble talks of providing care and protection to the children in need of care and protection but examination of various provisions of this Act would reveal that so far as child labour is concerned, it only provides for repatriation of such children to their parents and nothing more. It is silent on ensuring educational opportunities to such children. What will happen after repatriation, and whether or not the rescued child is re-cycled as child labour, is none of its concern. In other words, the Juvenile Justice Act is providing a smooth way for re-cycling of the rescued child labour.



The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 merely provides for the abolition of bonded labour system with a view to preventing the economic and physical exploitation of the weaker sections of the people but does not at all deal with the rehabilitation of bonded child labour. Similarly, the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966, the Factories Act, 1948 and the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 prohibit employment of children in the establishments covered by these Acts but do not deal with the rehabilitation of such child labour. On the other hand, it is shocking that certain laws even permit the employment of children, such as the Apprentices Act, 1961which permits children to enter into any occupation as apprentice and the Plantation of Labour Act, 1951 which expressly permits children to work in plantations.



The picture that emerges from an examination of the various aforementioned laws is that firstly, there is no complete prohibition of all forms of child labour, secondly, no law provides rehabilitation of child labour in the manner that the child labour cannot be re-cycled and thirdly, none of the existing laws provide for any educational opportunities for the rescued children. Various studies have shown that the only way to eradicate child labour is to provide to every child good quality educational opportunities. These may include well equipped full time schools, residential schools, day boarding schools, mobile schools, transport facilities, mid-day meals, adequate number of teachers etc. depending upon the requirement of each child. The children's homes or NGO-run welfare homes are not the substitutes. These opportunities are required at every nook and corner of the country.



The State is constitutionally obliged to actually provide the required educational opportunities to each and every child but these opportunities are nowhere visible. Result is: rampant child labour. Had it been done by the State, there would not be any child labour, what to talk of re-cycling of the child labour. The present laws dealing with child labour are totally defective. It may not be far-fetched to conclude that the phenomenon of the recycling of child labour and the continued prevalence and growth of child labour, are but the end result of all these so-called welfare legislations enacted for and in the name of the child. It is high time that the government must take steps to transform the existing laws to end all forms of child labour, including the re-cycling of child labour.

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