Child Labour Act may be tweaked to be on RTE page

,TNN | Jan 10, 2012, 05.16 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Within days of Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) recommending that the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act be amended in sync with the Right to Education (RTE) Act — promising free and compulsory education for children aged between 6 and 14 years – the labour ministry will hold a meeting with HRD officials on Wednesday.

This is the first concrete action on NAC's recommendation. NAC's proposal, being supported by the HRD ministry, states that child labour should be prohibited till 14 years. Another amendment being proposed is that children till 18 years should not be employed for hazardous tasks. Labour ministry sources said NAC's proposal would act as a template and there could be modifications, but implication of the RTE Act would be factored in the Child Labour Act.

Child Labour Act defines a child as a person who is below 14 years of age. The Act also says that no child should be employed for hazardous work. NAC said after the enactment of RTE Act the distinction between "prohibited and regulated employment that underwrites Child Labour Act is no longer tenable."

Educationists as well as the HRD ministry has been arguing in favour of changing the child labour law to bring in more children in the education net. "The child who works instead of being in school loses opportunities to break out of poverty, and suffers severe and irreversible damage to her physical and mental health," NAC said. It also argued that the "current regime of graded legality of child work is not in consonance with the fundamental rights of every child, including her right to be in school".

While recommending a ban on child labour till the age of 14, NAC has also said that the law should not penalize parents for making their children work. "Nor should the law criminalize children assisting their parents in work at home, in the fields or vending after school hours or during holidays," NAC said. But it has also recommended that since penalties under the Child Labour Act are "weak and poorly enforced", all offences under the Act should be made "cognizable and non-bailable."

NAC has said HRD and women & child development ministries should be entrusted with the job of rehabilitating child workers through child-supportive programmes.