India has one of the highest proportions of children under the age of 18 involved in labour activities. It is one of the most pressing issues in Indian society, and it must be addressed as soon as possible.
As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 a “child” is defined as anyone under the age of 14 years. A child of such an age is predicted to play, study, and be carefree regarding their life. However, such expectations barely meet reality because children, by force or by will, are pressured for employment in a harsh environment that becomes a threat to their lives.
Child labour contributes to children’s underdevelopment and incomplete physical and mental development, which slows their growth. In order to reduce child labour in India, the government of the country has taken appropriate measures through the introduction of rules and regulations.
Furthermore, if the entire business community of the country commits to taking steps to end child labour and assist needy children in receiving early childhood education, the creation of a vibrant and robust India will be possible. This article contains a brief overview of the rules and regulations and the laws for the prevention of child labour in the country.
Legal Working Age in India
In India, employing children less than the age of 14 in any type of work is considered a cogniSable offence and would attract a jail sentence for a maximum of 2 years. Children under the age of 14 may, however, be employed in certain family-based jobs.
Further, children between the ages of 14 and 18 are called adolescents, and they cannot be employed in any type of hazardous occupation. As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012, penal provisions are also applicable to the parents of the underage child employed.
Children Below the Age of 14 Years
Notably, children under the age of 14 are not permitted to perform any type of work in any process or business. Though such a restriction does not apply if a child is engaged in business subsequent to school hours or vacation for the purpose of providing assistance to family or family members, which is not harmful business. In relation to such children, family implies a father; mother, brother, sister, father’s sister and brother, and mother’s sister and brother.
Furthermore, a child under the age of 14 would be permitted to work as an artist in the audiovisual entertainment sector, which includes films, television, advertisements, or any other sports activities other than circus. But all such work is subject to conditions and safety measures.
Adolescents are Children Aged 14 to 18 Years
As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, adolescents are allowed to work in non-dangerous occupations and procedures. However, in the case of adolescent employment, the employer must meet the following requirements:
- Every day’s working time shall be determined in such a way that it shall not exceed three hours in any circumstance.
- In the course of a working period of three years, an adolescent shall have a gap for rest for a minimum of one hour subsequent to working for three hours.
- Adolescents were not permitted to work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.
- Overtime work is not permitted for adolescents.
- At any time, adolescents are not permitted to work in more than one occupation.
- At least one holiday per week must be provided to adolescents.
Norms for Employing Adolescents
Employers who hire adolescents must keep a register that includes the following information:
- Each adolescent employed must provide their birth date and name in order to be allowed to work.
- The working period and hours of an adolescent and the period of rest time that is allowed to adolescents
- The type of work performed by an adolescent
In addition to the above details, upon allowing adolescents to work in an occupation, the establishment’s owner shall send some of the following information to the local inspector within a period of 30 days, such as:
- Name of the company, address of the company
- Name of the person who is actually in charge of the establishment’s management.
- The procedure or occupation is carried out in the establishment.
- Address to which communications relating to the establishment shall be sent
Child Labour Laws in India
There are several Child Labour Law regulations in India that prohibit child labour, like:
The Factories Act, 1948:
As per the cited Act, children younger than the age of 14 are not permitted to work in any factory. This Child Labour law also stipulated who, when, and for how long children aged 15 to 18 could work in factories.
The Mines Act, 1952:
As per this child labour law, children aged less than 18 years are not permitted to work in any factory. Mines are considered one of the most dangerous occupations, contributing to significant major accidents that have taken the lives of children in the past, and are completely prohibited for them.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986:
As per this child labour law, children younger than the age of 14 are not permitted to work in hazardous businesses as prescribed in the law list.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009:
As per this child labour law, it is mandatory for children aged between 6 to get free and compulsory education. This legislation also required that in any private school, at least 25% of seats be reserved for physically challenged or vulnerable groups of children.
Penal Provisions for Violating Child Labour Laws
The violation of the child labour law contributes to fines and imprisonment. In this aspect, any individual who employs or allows any child to work in violation of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, is punishable by jail time for a period of at least 6 months but not more than 2 years. In addition, the employer could face a fine ranging from ₹20,000 to ₹50,000.
Penal provisions are also applicable to parents. In this aspect, parents who pressure their children to engage in family occupations, as child artists (without permitting them to go to school), or any other banned businesses under the law could be punished. Parents are initially punished with a warning under the law, but if they engage their child in illegal occupation again, they face a maximum fine of ₹10,000.
Child labour is one of the main reasons behind the harmful physical and mental development of children. In India, the government of the country is engaged in providing free and compulsory education for all children and has taken a number of steps to reduce child labour. Though child labour is a continuous issue and challenge in India because of the poverty, inadequate educational facilities, and development of the informal economy,
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