After six hours and much Opposition, the Child Labour (Prevention) Bill 2016 cleared the Lok Sabha and all its controversial provisions that include slashing the number of hazardous professions from 83 to 3. Sweatshops where young children work an average of 15 hours a day making zaris, bangles, or bidis and working in tanneries, are no longer considered dangerous.
The current law prohibits children under 14 from working only in hazardous jobs, although even this is not properly implemented, say activists.
They said a provision that allows children under 14 to work in family enterprises after school, leaves room for exploitation. Critics say the loophole is the loose definition of the term ‘family’. Hordes of research has shown that trafficking of children is mostly done by those claiming to be relatives, a claim that is hard to prove.
Criticising the government’s decision to permit some forms of labour after school hours or on vacations, one lawmaker from the Biju Janata Dal said a shoemaker’s son will inevitably become a cobbler, a fate that will be brought by the bill.
The government has defended the decision saying some children need to learn traditional skills and families need a helping hand.
Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatrey replied to the House, saying they have not allowed children under 14 to work except after school and in family enterprises.
DMK lawmaker Kanimozhi said when a similar attempt was made in Tamil Nadu by her father M Karunanidhi there was so much opposition that he had to quit. Her view was supported by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi who tweeted his disappointment after the bill was passed.