According to official sources the Central Government of India is planning to increase the age bar on child labor from 14 years to 18 years. This is to end a disparity in child labor laws and juvenile justice laws.
As of now, the Labor Ministry is examining a proposal to amend the Child Labor (Prohibition) Act to increase the age to 18. This move is meant to be in consonance with other laws and the United Nations Convention on Child Rights, to which India is a signatory.
Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury and the chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked the Labor ministry to define child laborers as those who are below 18 years of age. In the present Act, those below 14 years of age are considered child laborers yet the Juvenile Justice Act considers 18 as the age bar.
The Labor ministry has now brought together a working group to consider a set of amendments in the law prohibiting child labor. "The group has been constituted following recommendations from several states and child right organizations," a ministry official was quoted. The working group is expected to submit a list of amendments in three to six months.
This move is expected to have major implications for 13 industrial sectors and 52 types of works enlisted in the Act, where child labor is not allowed. This would mean that these sectors would not be able to employ children between the age group of 14 and 18 years, if the amendment comes through. According to various NGOs , claims lakhs of children are employed in hazardous industries listed in the Act.
The ministry also wants to see that the labor department officials will have more power to check domestic child labor. "State governments like the Delhi government have sought amendment in the Act saying that in absence of power of the labor department to conduct raids, it is not possible to enforce the law in case of domestic child labor," says a ministry official said.
However the officials add that the ministry also wants to ensure that, if such a power is granted, it should never be misused. The working group is expected to examine the requests of the states and come up with a suitable proposal.