Guwahati, June 14: Child labour is such a widespread problem in the country that we often ignore the fact that a boy or a girl as young as a six-year-old is serving us tea in a hotel or manufacturing bangals in a dingy room under hazardous conditions. Child labour is all omnipresent in spite of being "banned" in the country.
In an attempt to fight against the perennial problem of child labour, the northeastern state of Assam has adopted a unique mantra--to "name and shame" anyone found engaging a child or children in any form of labour.
The state government has decided to plaster pictures of "offenders" all over the streets to publicly humiliate them. Moreover, the government is also going to impose a fine of Rs 60,000 on parents who engage their children to work and earn money.
The decision was announced by the government on the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour observed across the globe on Monday.
"Apart from mass awareness about the laws that prohibit use of children below 14 years in work, we are going to be tough against those found involved in such acts. It has been seen that children are engaged by educated and rich people, mainly in the cities, as domestics, in factories and shops. They need to be shamed in public besides taking penal action against them under the child labour prohibition law for better impact on society," Assam labour and employment minister Pallab Lochan Das was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
"Besides, it has been observed that some people are engaging their children in work for money. Such parents, instead of approaching the government to take care of their children, including their education, engage them in shops or other business establishments for money," he added.
According to reports, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently issued an instruction to make the state child labour free in the next two years.
"We have decided to jointly fight the problem with departments such as social welfare, police, education and other agencies. Apart from stepping up rescue operations, we are emphasising on awareness programmes for prevention and rehabilitation of the victims by supporting the parents as well," said TC Sarma, labour department commissioner.
The state is said to have around 4 lakh child labourers engaged in various sectors including tea gardens and brick klins.
A 2015 report by the International Labour Organisation put the number of child workers in India ages five to 17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally. The UNICEF estimates that there are 28 million child labourers in India.
The Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre passed the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Amendment) Act, 2016, last year.
The 2016 law prohibits employment of children aged below 14. However, it allows adolescents (aged 14-18) to work in non-hazardous occupations and children to assist their families in businesses after school hours. The previous law allowed children to be employed in family enterprises without restriction.
After severe criticism for allowing children to work in family enterprises, the government recently brought some changes it its 2016 law.
The Labour and Employment Ministry on June 2 notified the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules, 2017, which state that children can help in family enterprises only for three hours after school hours. Children could not extend any help between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. It also laid out conditions on which children could offer help to their families.