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Mahendra Kumar Singh,TNN Feb 9, 2012, 03.57 AM IST
NEW DELHI: The government is considering to make changes in existing laws to abolish all forms of child labour under 18 years.
A government panel has recommended amendment to Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act that makes distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous categories of work for children under 14 years.
Child rights activists has been demanding for a revision in the definition of child labour to bring uniformity in all laws, and recognize all working children upto 18 years as child labourers.
The demand for a complete ban on child labour, irrespective of whether it is in hazardous or non-hazardous industries, will gain momentum, thanks to the fresh recommendations made by a Plan panel group. Child labour was banned only in 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes, said an official.
The panel suggested that existing child labour law would to be in tune with the Right to Education (RTE) Act as children cannot be both working and studying (elementary and secondary level) simultaneously.
The committee advocated abolition of all form of child labour to ensure effective implementation of the RTE Act. "Child labour in any form is detrimental to physical, mental and cognitive growth and development of the child," noted the panel, headed by secretary of women and child development ministry.
With compulsory quality education being made available to all children upto 14 years under the RTE Act, the panel is hoping that number of working children would reduce as 'children at school' are not 'children at work'.
It was also argued to extend the RTE Act upto the senior secondary level.
Planning Commission's working group on child rights, which has secretaries of labour, health, education, social justice, rural development as members, recommended for developing a comprehensive children's code by harmonizing and updating different legal provisions, with uniformity in definition of "children" and strengthen and create more effective mechanism for child sensitive and child-friendly jurisprudence.
The panel noted that a large number of children are working to earn money — 12.6 million child labourers in the age group of 6-14 in hazardous occupation, according to the 2001 Census.
As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 data, 11.8% children are found to be engaged in work. Gujarat has the highest proportion of working children at 32%, followed by Rajasthan (20%). The percentage of children working in rural areas was higher at 11% than in urban centres (9%). There was no difference in work participation rates between boys and girls.