The Union government on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 approved an amendment, allowing children below 14 years of age to work in non-hazardous family enterprises and entertainment business; a slap on the face of Kailash Satyarthi, who won the Nobel Prize for his work against bonded child labour and exploitation. With this Act, books will be replaced with spades and bundles of wood. Soon, it will be all work and no time to learn for our children.
Despite strict punishment for the offenders, this law update on Child Labour in India serves as a loophole for exploiting the innocence of children. According to the law, the probation on Child Labour in India will not apply if the children are helping their families in fields and forests after school hours or during vacation. Honestly, in India we do not need a bill from the government so that children may help their parents at work. Instead of empowering children with education, this Act has put a legal tag on child labour.
There are 17 million children working instead of going to school (source: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002). The statement “children are the future of our nation” has stopped making sense anymore. We cannot make India by sending these children to work and denying them an opportunity to learn. The vulnerable children of our country are affected by this law. This law goes against the Right to Education Act that guarantees equal education opportunity to every child. Rather than taking strong measures to ensure the right to education and eradicate the social evil of Child Labour in India, this amendment can be a high road for children to drop out from schools to add a little more to the family income.
This Child Labour Act can be used as an excuse to deny education to the girl child. According to government statistics, female literacy in our country is as low as 64% and the school drop-out rates of girls are almost double the rate of boys.
Child labour is a crime. It curbs the opportunity for children to grow and destroys their future. No child wants to be a labour at the age of 14. This law is a road block for the many underprivileged children to attain self-respect in the society. It will steal their chance to learn a trade and make better living.
It is the duty of the government and we, the people, to assist in the rehabilitation and education of children. It is in our hands to help them build a better future rather than to silently watch their struggles.
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