India bans child labour in homes and hotels
Wed Aug 2, 2006 4:18 PM BST
By Kamil Zaheer ,Reuters UK
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India, home to the largest number of child labourers in the world, has banned children under the age of 14 from working as domestic servants or at hotels, tea shops, restaurants and resorts.
The labour ministry said the ban would come into effect from October 10 and those violating it could face a jail term up to two years and a maximum fine of 20,000 rupees (228 pounds).
Children working in lower-end restaurants and highway food stalls are a common sight in many parts of India, and many urban households and shops hire young boys and girls under the age of 14 from poor families as servants or maids.
“The committee…while recommending a ban on employing children in these occupations, had said that these children are subjected to physical violence, psychological trauma and, at times, even sexual abuse,” a government statement said, referring to the Technical Advisory Committee on Child Labour.
“These children are made to work for long hours and are made to undertake various hazardous activities severely affecting their health and psyche,” it said, in a statement released late on Tuesday.
Under India’s 1986 Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, children under 14 are already banned from “hazardous” industries such as making fireworks and glass-making.
But the ban is poorly implemented due to red tape and corruption, activists say, and given the government’s poor record, some do not expect the latest ban to be effective.
“But it gives us moral support to fight child slavery,” said Kailash Satyarthi, chairman of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement).
Government data shows there are more than 11 million child labourers under 14, but Satyarthi said this was a gross underestimate and the figure was closer to 60 million.
“Unless the government is honest about the magnitude of the problem, how can we solve it?”
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) welcomed the ban but said its implementation was a challenge, as many of the children worked in homes and away from public view.
“Children working at homes or in eateries have very long hours and face isolation, and are far away from support systems,” said Leyla Tegmo-Reddy, ILO’s India representative.
“Often, these children take care of more privileged children, seeing the world that they don’t have.”
The ILO has called for punitive steps such as fines and imprisonment for people violating the ban.
Labour ministry spokesman M.L. Dhar said children working as domestic servants and in street restaurants, were vulnerable because crime against them often went unreported.
“For children working in houses, it is an difficult area (to investigate) as there is a question of privacy of people living there,” Dhar said. “But the government will evolve some methods.”