Finally, the will for the right ban

ENAKSHI GANGULY THUKRAL IN THE HINDU

The Cabinet decision to seek total prohibition of child labour is a step long overdue

The Cabinet Committee has passed the proposal seeking a total ban on employing children under 14 years and of 14-18 year olds in hazardous occupations. When passed in Parliament as law, it will be a huge milestone in the journey that many of us had started in the mid-1980s. This also marks a milestone in my own personal journey as a child rights activist.The first time I engaged with this issue was in 1986 when the government was drafting the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLPRA). Activists were protesting against the proposed law that would allow children to work in “non hazardous” occupations below the age of 14 years and in all occupations, hazardous and non-hazardous, beyond that age. We saw this as a violation of the basic right to childhood, as children as young as six and seven years were employed and leading horrifying lives.The law was passed and since then, India has had a law that for all practical purposes, that allows children to work. Over the years, activists have been advocating, fighting and campaigning on child labour throughout the country so that the government recognised the gravity of the problem and showed the political will to address it.

Leads to poverty

Child labour is a harsh reality, we were told by the government, children of the poor must work or how will they will survive?

This was the very argument that led to India’s declaration to Article 32 to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child when the government ratified the Convention in 1992, stating that “… being aware that it is not practical immediately to prescribe minimum ages for admission to each and every area of employment in India — the Government of India undertakes to take measures to progressively implement the provisions of article 32 ….”

And hence even while India marched into economic growth and its place as a world superpower, child labour continued with legal support.Child rights activists were clear that child labour leads to poverty and not vice versa; child labour was a reality because without doubt, employers preferred children as they could be paid less, made to work longer hours and beaten into submission: the only way to address child labour and poverty was to ensure that child labour was banned, every child was in school and that they were replaced by adults who were paid at least minimum wages.

Educating children

But, the child labour law was in direct disharmony with the Fundamental Right to Education after (86th Amendment to the Constitution, 2002) and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) passed in 2009. All children had the right to education but how could children be at school and at work at the same time?A public Interest litigation (PIL) filed by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, M.V. Foundation and Social Jurist in 2005, for the first time raised this contradiction between the two laws in the Supreme Court, which issued a notice on December 12, 2005, to the Centre seeking enforcement of the right to education of every child in the age group of six to 14 by abolishing child labour in all its forms. But the government did not pay heed.

Moreover, even as raids and rescues of child labour revealed exploitation and abuse, CLPRA did not make child labour a cognisable offence. It was the Campaign against Child Labour (CACL) and the Campaign against Child Trafficking (CACT) that drew the government’s attention to this as did HAQ, a member of the Central Advisory Board on Child Labour. This issue was addressed somewhat in 2007, when the rules for the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJA), in Section 26 of JJA made child labour a cognisable offence, bringing some relief. However, now there was a contradiction between JJA and CLPRA. JJA covered all children under 18 years in hazardous sectors, while CLPRA remained restricted to under 14 year olds.

Meanwhile, India was under tremendous international pressure to recognise child labour as a problem. Big companies under flak from activists, began to opt for “child labour free” declarations for the products they bought from, or produced in India. U.N. agencies such as the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child to which India has reported three times (the last report is due for discussion) raised questions about India’s continued stand on child labour being a harsh reality and therefore not possible to eliminate.The present move of the government to finally ban all child labour below the age of 14 years and in hazardous labour between 14-18 years is a coming together of all these efforts. It will finally resolve contradictions between the different laws.Better late than never! Of course, this is only the first stage to its becoming law, and we hope that Parliament will pass the proposal making it a law.

Will the law alone lead to the elimination of child labour? Perhaps not. After all, any change on the ground is dependent on the successful implementation of the law and this is an area in which India lags behind severely. And hence the battle for implementation of the law, once it is passed, will have to continue.But let us not be sceptical for now. Let us recognise and rejoice that this will be a giant leap in the history of child rights in India. For the first time, after over two and a half decades of struggle, the government has recognised that despite child labour being a “harsh reality,” the law must be forward looking. Instead of law reflecting reality, it must be designed to change it.

(Enakshi Ganguly Thukral is co-director of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.)

Most rescued childeren are never rehabilitated

Most rescued childeren are never rehabilitated

Most rescued childeren are never rehabilitated

PRERNA SODHI IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: The teenage help who was rescued from a Dwarka apartment in March is now enrolled in a school in Jharkhand. She has received her wage arrears, besides support from the state. But hers is an exceptional story of rehabilitation. Experts say most trafficked children, even when rescued, lead bleak lives.

Take the case of two girls — aged 12 and 13 — who were brought to Delhi a year ago and sexually assaulted at a placement agency. After their rescue, they were sent to a shelter home in West Bengal, and have not received any significant help.

Experts say care and aid are lavished on victims only after their cases grab media attention. Generally, though, rescued children get trapped in procedural hurdles. The luckier ones are ‘reunited’ with their families but not rehabilitated and, occasionally, children even slip back into the hands of traffickers.

Rishikant, an activist from NGO Shakti Vahini, said, “We get many complaints and some of the offences are grave. The state machinery moves when a case gets highlighted. In most cases, the child welfare committees (CWCs) merely dump the children back home without follow-up,” he said. The chairperson of the Lajpat Nagar CWC said, “Reuniting does not mean rehabilitation.” Shakti Vahini claims that of the 200 children it rescued last year, none has been properly rehabilitated.

In most cases, delays occur due to poor inter-state coordination. “The authorities here are not so concerned as 90% of the cases are from other states. Their attitude is that the other state has to take care of them,” said CWC chairperson Raaj Mangal Prasad. It is also observed that the CWCs of the other states are not so zealous in their work.

Rishi Kant, another Shakti Vahini member, said this hampers follow-up action. “The CWC might pass orders in the city and, to an extent, also recover children’s due wages, but it becomes difficult to follow up on a case on a day-to-day basis.” He suggests that the labour department should act as an intermediary between source states and cities from where children are rescued.

The director for policy and research at Child Rights and You (CRY), Vijaylakshmi Arora, said lack of manpower is another important hurdle in rehabilitation. “If you go to the district level or the CWCs, you don’t find much manpower. It is usually one man taking care of 50 cases. That ratio has to be improved.”

Arora said a system needs to be in place to track each and every child’s case separately “as each child’s case is different and the factors for trafficking are different. This will also keep tabs on children who have been re-trafficked; at present there is no system to monitor that.”

While lack of manpower and poor interstate coordination hinder the process of rehabilitation, Prasad said transferring the monitoring of child labour to the department of women and child development will help. “The Child Labour Act that falls under the labour department does not look into the rehabilitation of a child; this is done by the Juvenile Justice Act that is the responsibility of the department of women and child development,” he said, adding, “Shifting the child labour issue to them would speed up the process”.

PRERNA SODHI IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

We cannot allow our children to work

Why should children from Poorer States and  where their is poverty have the only option which is to serve to the rich and wash their utensils and clean their  homes?  Why cant the Indian State provide for empowerment of these children so that they also are empowered and well educated ? Why cant we honour our Constitution and enforce those rights which is guranteed to each of these children? It is high time the Government bans all forms of child labour. Any Child out of school is child labour . We cannot allow our children to work – the message should go loud and clear.

 Ravi Kant , Advocate Supreme Court of India & President Shakti Vahini in a    CNN IBN DEBATE  –   FTN: Servant-employer relationship reaching breaking point?

“Imagine this: you have two children, a toddler and a teenager. Would you ever leave the younger one in the care of the older one (unsupervised by a senior) for a long period of time? Or would you leave your minor child unattended at home with gas and electrical appliances within his/her reach? In both cases, we assume, the answer would be a firm no. But when it comes to a minor domestic help, such caution is thrown to the winds, even though the act of employing a minor as a domestic is illegal. But since there is a gap between the law and its implementation (especially as long as things don’t get out of hand), child labour thrives in India, right under our benign gaze. In yet another case of such child abuse, the Delhi Police on Wednesday arrested a doctor couple, Sanjay and Sumita Verma, for locking up their minor domestic help at home and going on a holiday to Bangkok with their 11-year-old daughter. It was four days after their departure that the girl, who hails from Jharkhand, was rescued. She later told the police that the couple starved and beat her on a regular basis and confined her to the house. A case was filed against the couple under the Juvenile Justice Act, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and the Indian Penal Code.

Despite a web of strong laws, the number of child workers in the country is substantial. The 2001 census, which enumerated child labour by occupation, revealed that 1.86 lakh children below the age of 14 were engaged as domestic workers. Along with very slack implementation, even after so many years of the Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) Act, 1986, coming into being, the trend continues because not only is it cheaper to hire young children but also because there is silent societal support — or at least no strong opposition — against such hiring. This is only supported sometimes by a specious argument that the children who work as domestic help are at least better off than they would have been in their villages, where two square meals could be a luxury at times. There is hardly any logic to the argument because for a working child, a day spent as a domestic help means she goes two steps back from the constitutional rights she enjoys as a citizen and there can be no greater joy and sense of security for a child than to be with her parents.

The demand for such young workers has been rising in India and the sorry state of affairs in the rural areas has only helped in stitching a demand-supply link, which is usually serviced by unscrupulous touts who indulge in child trafficking. While the laws can help to tackle cases that come to light, there must be equal if not greater stress on tackling the root of the supply. Is this conspiratorial silence because children don’t have a voice or a vote?

Not work for a Small Child – HINDUSTAN TIMES EDITORIAL ARTICLE

“The idea that those who provide service, do so out of social inferiority rather than economic necessity, that it is their assigned station in life is responsible for the way household help is treated in India. This is a job without any job guarantees, carries no mandated benefits either by way of health coverage or pension and no mechanism to ensure a reasonable code of behaviour on part of the employer. Even the most liberal minded individuals balk at making the relationship with their domestic staff a transparent and fair one, preferring to take refuge in a paternalistic and highly discretionary relationship where one confers benefits in a selective and feudal manner. The unstated class divide is etched in hard lines-’they’ must not be given too much attention and most certainly no enforceable rights, for otherwise they will get above themselves and take advantage of ‘us’, is the feeling. Instead, a common currency of grievances consisting of real and imagined stories of criminality, unpredictability, ingratitude and callousness is generated and re-circulated in a way that the employers begin to see themselves as the victims, being forced to pay ever increasing sums of money bordering on extortion to this undeserving section of society. There is little recognition that this is a commercial transaction and one that must make sense to both sides; the unequal power equation that has always existed has made us blind to the fact that serving us is not the natural condition of the people in question. Stories of horrific abuse that domestic help, often defenceless and vulnerable children, suffer in India are a natural consequence of this attitude.”

Santosh Desai – Used to Being Served?  – In The Times of India

Not work for a small child

HINDUSTAN TIMES

Imagine this: you have two children, a toddler and a teenager. Would you ever leave the younger one in the care of the older one (unsupervised by a senior) for a long period of time? Or would you leave your minor child unattended at home with gas and electrical appliances within his/her reach? In both cases we assume, the answer would be a firm no. But when it comes to a minor domestic help, such caution is thrown to the winds, even though the act of employing a minor as a domestic is illegal. But since there is a gap between the law and its implementation (especially as long as things don’t get out of hand), child labour thrives in India, right under our benign gaze. In yet another case of such child abuse, the Delhi Police on Wednesday arrested a doctor couple, Sanjay and Sumita Verma, for locking up their minor domestic help at home and going on a holiday to Bangkok with their 11-year-old daughter. It was four days after their departure that the girl, who hails from Jharkhand, was rescued. She later told the police that the couple starved and beat her on a regular basis and confined her to the house. A case was filed against the couple under the Juvenile Justice Act, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and the Indian Penal Code.

Despite a web of strong laws, the number of child workers in the country is substantial. The 2001 census, which enumerated child labour by occupation, revealed that 1.86 lakh children below the age of 14 were engaged as domestic workers. Along with very slack implementation, even after so many years of the Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) Act, 1986, coming into being, the trend continues because not only is it cheaper to hire young children but also because there is silent societal support — or at least no strong opposition — against such hiring.

This is only supported sometimes by a specious argument that the children who work as domestic help are at least better off than they would have been in their villages, where two square meals could be a luxury at times. There is hardly any logic to the argument because for a working child, a day spent as a domestic help means she goes two steps back from the constitutional rights she enjoys as a citizen and there can be no greater joy and sense of security for a child than to be with her parents.

The demand for such young workers has been rising in India and the sorry state of affairs in the rural areas has only helped in stitching a demand-supply link, which is usually serviced by unscrupulous touts who indulge in child trafficking. While the laws can help to tackle cases that come to light, there must be equal if not greater stress on tackling the root of the supply. Is this conspiratorial silence because children don’t have a voice or a vote?

Not work for a small child