Punching holes in the child labour amendment bill in Lok Sabha, BJP member Varun Gandhi today described some of the proposed changes in the Act as “lunacy”.
“It’s not leniency, but lunacy”, he said while referring to certain provisions relating to punishment for violation of the child labour laws.
Participating in the debate on the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2016, Gandhi wanted to know how the authorities would determine whether the parent violating the law was a first-time offender or a repeat offender.
Under the proposed amendment to the child labour law which has already been approved by the Rajya Sabha, there is no punishment for a first-time offender parent but there is provision for penalty for repeat offenders.
Gandhi also raised questions on the implementation of the law especially with regard to prosecution of offenders.
Observing that the Right to Education law provided for free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 years, he wondered what a child would do before he or she completes 18 years.
He also demanded that the list of hazardous industries for purposes of child labour laws be expanded to include construction where children are forced to assist their working parents.
Gandhi further said that the provision authorising the government to omit hazardous industries from the list should be removed and added only Parliament should have the authority to prune the list.
The nation should dream of a future wherein a child is seen holding a book in his hand and not agricultural equipments or a broom, Gandhi added.
Gandhi received support from the UN child agency, UNICEF, which too voiced concern
The UN agency, according to Times of India, said the provision will impact children from poorer families and legitimise family work, thus causing further disadvantage to them as there is a lot of outsourced work carried out from home.
The bill makes employing a child below 14 years of age in any occupation or process, except where the child helps his or her family, punishable by a jail term of up to two years and even provides for a penalty for parents.
“Under the new Child Labour Act, the more invisible forms of child labour and exploitation may go unseen and the most vulnerable and marginalised children may end up with irregular school attendance, lower levels of learning,” said Euphrates Gobina, UNICEF chief of education in India.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) founder and Nobel Peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi+ had earlier told Times of India that the changes would lead to further “victimisation of children” in their poverty.
(With inputs from PTI)