India Intelligence Report

 

 

   Child Labor Law Becomes Active

  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cajoled, threatened, and entreated the nation to "stop employing children as workers and actively encourage them to join schools" and that "Firm action will be taken against those violating the law."
 

 

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cajoled, threatened, and entreated the nation to "stop employing children as workers and actively encourage them to join schools" and that "Firm action will be taken against those violating the law." He also reminded the nation that India has pledged that "children are not engaged in any form of work at the cost of their right to education" and that such employment is prohibited by the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986. Singh promised that "Arrangements had been made for providing education to those release from work" but did not disclose what those were.

In some states like Karnataka, there is a fight among Ministries as to who gets the spoils of the law with the Human Rights Development Ministry claiming success and responsibility. To bolster its claim, it has directed all schools to give preferential admission to those "withdrawn from work." It also directed district administrators to "educate" children when they are released from work but did not say how they plan to fund this plan. The ban comes at a very strange time, right in the middle of the school year, and the HRD Ministry dies not say how they will educate children that do not have basic skills but clearly above age for primary school except to cite the National Child Labor Project and the Indus Project which deal with Child Labor issues as those who "would also play a major role in providing access to these children." It is unclear if these Non-Government or statutory bodies are capable of scaling to handle such large numbers that are theoretically free from employment. The State's Action Plan to Eliminate Child Labor in 2001 with plans to eradicate the practice by 2007 has remained only a plan because of lack of funding. To highlight the lack of seriousness to handle this issue, child rights activists say that not a single meeting of a high power committee formed by the state headed by the Chief Minister occurred since 2001 when the Action Plan was created. Therefore, it is unclear why politicians think that this ban is going to bring change when previous such fiats have made no impact on society.

If this is the state of affairs in prosperous Karnataka, it is unimaginable how Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where there is no functioning administration, will enforce this law. Apart from the ever-present funding problem, there are other reasons why this ban may also fail is because of the lack of thought process in bringing out policy. Firstly, there is lack of reliable statistics on the numbers, location, and status of child labor in India. Secondly, there is abject lack of awareness in society on the prevalence, consequence, and seriousness of child labor. Thirdly, there is no concrete proposals to address root causes such as poverty, illiteracy, and rural indebtedness that are driving children into employment or slavery. Fourthly, there is no adequate rehabilitation plan that can accommodate the numbers who may be theoretically freed from employment.

The Federal Government itself has voted for politics instead of children. By supporting a baseless law that guarantees reservation to Other Backward Classes that may be struck down in courts, it has decided to fund an unsustainable expansion in advanced premier institutions and denying funding for right to education as guaranteed by the Constitution.

While no one faults the Government for trying to stop this practice, almost every NGO, analyst, activist, and academician have thrown up their hands to how the Government is going about trying to deal with this issue.