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Proposed amendments in Child Labour law

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012

Global March Against Child Labour’s review of the Bill

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 (hereforth referred to as Bill) was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 4 December 2012 by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

The Bill seeks to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, (hereforth referred to as the Child Labour Act, 1986) which prohibits the engagement of children under 14 years in certain types of occupations and regulates the condition of work of children in other occupations.

The Child Labour Act, 1986 prohibits employment of children below 14 years in 18 occupations and 65 processes defined in the Schedule. such as abattoirs/slaughter houses, automobile workshop and garages, handling of toxic and inflammable substances, handloom and powerloom industry, mines, employment of children as domestic workers, in dhabas, bidi-making, carpet weaving, brick kilns, cotton ginning and processing, manufacturing of glass including bangles, manufacture or handling of pesticides and insecticides, manufacture of sports goods, zari making, ragpicking and scavenging.

Complete ban on child labour, and prohibition of hazardous work by adolescents

The Bill introduces the term ‘adolescent’ to mean a person who is between 14 and 18 years. And, prohibits the employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations or processes (mines, inflammable substances or explosives, or hazardous process) as defined in the Schedule.

The Bill redefines ‘child’ to mean a person below 14 years or any age as specified in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which ever is more.

The Bill prohibits the employment of children in any occupation or processes. However, the Bill allows the child helping his family after school hours, although this exception does not make the exception when there is home-based contractual or outsourced work.

In comparison to the Schedule of hazardous occupation or processes, the Bill allows for both the addition or omission of any hazardous occupation or process, instead of the previous addition only.

Enhanced penalties for violation, and made a cognizable offense

The Bill also enhances the punishment for employing a child labourer by increasing the penalty to between 6 months to 2 year, and the fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs. 50,000. The Child Labour Act, 1986 stipulated punishment from 3 months to 1 year, and a fine of Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000. The imprisonment and fine can be applied cumulatively.

Similarly, the Bill imposes punishment for employing an adolescent in hazardous occupation or processes of 6 months to 2 years, or fine of Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 50,0000 or both.

Furthermore, in case of person repeats the offense under the Bill, the punishment has been enhanced to 1 – 3 years, and makes the offenses punishable under this act as cognizable.

Accountability, Inspection and Monitoring

To ensure implementation of the provision of the Bill, government may confer powers to the District Magistrate to carry out the duties set in the Bill.

For accountability, inspection and monitoring, the Bill authorises the government to make periodic inspection of places at which employment of children is prohibited and hazardous occupations or processes are carried out.

Additional information

The Bill is currently under review with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. The introduction and first review of the Bill was made on 7 February 2013.




Towards complete ban on child labour and not regulation is the slogan of Minister Kharge, Union Minister of Labour and Employment, India


11 May 2012, New Delhi: Minister of Labour and Employment Shri. Mallikarjun Kharge announced that India is gearing towards a complete abolition of child labour through aChild Labour Abolition Act. In his inaugural address as the Chief Guest of National Consultation Child Labour Free India of Global March Against Child Labour and Bachpan Bachao Andolan, he said, “India’s commitment to the cause of chidlren is as old as its civilisation. All children must have an equal right, regardless of their background. We need to move from eradication towards a complete ban on child labour, towards abolition from regulation. We are paving the way for a Child Labour Abolition Act and are examining the provision to ensure that all children below 18 years are prohibited from hazardous work.” Responding to the demands of the children and the children’s charter, he said, “the progress has been slow, but I’m proud to say that we’ve been working towards your demands and are seriously considering all.” For right to education to be successful, child labour must be completely eradicated, and all stakeholders must work together to make this possible.

A two-day National Consultation on Child Labour Free India organised by Global March Against Child Labour and Bachpan Bachao Andolan was inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister of Labour  and Employment, Government of India, Shri. Mallikarjun Kharge at Constitution Club, New Delhi on 11th May 2012 to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue among the government representatives, trade unions, teachers and child rights organisations, academicians, UN agencies and the child representatives, and to move towards a concrete plan for child labour free India including changes in the child labour laws and policy and programme converge.  Ms. Tine Staermose, Director, International Labour Organization (ILO), Sub-regional Office in New Delhi; Mr. Ravi Wig, Chairman, Council of Indian Employers; Razia and Rajkumari and other elected child representatives from 13 states, attended the inaugural ceremony of the National Consultation.  

Razia, a former child labourer from Meerut, presenting the children’s charter of demands drafted by the former child labourers and child leaders to the Minister Kharge said, “My question to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment is for how long will children continue to work and be slaves and it is my humble request to you to put an end to all forms of child labour, with urgency.” She said, as a child labourer stitching footballs, she was getting only Rs. 3-4 per football, while the big football players gets crores of rupees for kicking the same football.

“India has grown economically in the last two decades. We’ve seen remarkable growth in the GDP rates and also in literacy rates, and still we are burdened by the largest number of child labourers, child slaves and trafficked victims in the world. This needs to change and change with urgency. The child labour needs to move from being regulated to being completely eradication, and we are hopeful that this will be done soon,” expressed Mr Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson, Global March Against Child Labour and founder, Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

Ms Tine Staermose, Director, ILO Sub-regional Office in New Delhi referring to ILO Global Report of 2010, expressed concern that the efforts to eliminate child labour has flagged down in light of the global downturn and that there is a need for a reinvigorated worldwide campaign against child labour.

Mr Ravi Wig, Chairman, Council of Indian Employers strongly emphasised that child labour is slavery. “Historically, there is no mention of child labour or slavery in India, so where did this come from? Industrial revolution created child labour. And our labour laws more geared towards policing and checking have not been able to stop child labour. We need to sensitise the country on child labour and create awareness on the government policies and schemes for social protection and ensure an end to child labour.”

Mr U Saratchandran, Member Secretary of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), “If children are denied of their childhood, to educate themselves and to participate in the development process of the nation, we cannot progress as a country.”

Mr N M Adhyanthaya, Governing Board Member of ILO, Member of International Trade Union Confederation and Vice-President of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), unable to attend the inaugural due to health reasons, sent a congratulatory message that said “In view of eliminating child labour and ensuring the overall well being of children, I appeal to the Government of India to sincerely take every possible legal, programmatic and policy measure to abolish all forms of child labour. INTUC supports all     governmental moves aimed towards elimination of child labour and decent work for adults.”  


India is a fast emerging economy with a high GDP growth rate of 8.2% for 2011-12. Also, with 243 million individuals aged 10-19 years, India has the largest population of youths in the world. With proper investment in these children and youths to realise fullest of their potential, India can become the next super power of the 21st century. Despite this, many children in India are languishing in poverty and misery, uncared for. India is home to 4.9 million child labourers according to the 66th round of the National Statistical Survey Organisation (NSSO) and 12.6 million according to the 2001 census. Additionally there are 8.151 million children who are out of school. Instead of being in classrooms, these children belonging to poor families are compelled to spend the days of their childhood working for long hours in hazardous conditions on tedious tasks. Be it be plucking cotton in rural farms, working as domestic helps in urban towns or embroidering for branded garments in their homes or in sweatshops, child labour is pervasive in India.

The Government of India has taken several steps to address the issue of child labour such as putting in place legislations, policies and social programmes for protection of children from exploitation. Trade Unions, Child Rights Organisations, Employer Organisations and other stakeholders have played a significant role in advocating for the fulfillment of the rights of children. The Government has already indicated to take more progressive measures for eliminating child labour in India. But the genuine consensus, ownership and partnership in action has to be strengthened amongst all sections of society for effective implementation of any legislative effort. This is especially so given the magnitude of the problem and the spate of cases of child labour abuse in recent times.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 only prohibits child labour till 14 years in certain occupations/processes considered as hazardous, thus allowing the engagement of below 14 children in other occupation/processes. Agriculture, considered harmful for children due to the nature of its work-handling sharp tools, using pesticides, etc., has not been covered in the hazardous occupations/processes listed in this child labour law. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 is a major step toward universal primary education in India. However, there is a need to integrate child labour elimination through various educational programmes, including non-formal education, vocational training, Alternative Learning Schemes and bridge courses. In spite of these provisions, the children between 15-18 years are not entirely covered and are vulnerable to exploitation and hazardous work. There is thus an urgent need to revisit the child labour laws including their synchronisation with the Right to Education Act, and make progress towards ratification of the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and Convention No. 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour.


To commemorate the second anniversary of the acclamation of Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Froms of Child Labour by 2016 at the Global Child Labour Conference at The Hague in 2010 and for reminding the commitments made by various stakeholders at an international forum, Global March Against Child Labour and its partner organisation in India, Bachpan Bachao Andolan are hosting a 2-day National Consultation on Child Labour Free India. This consultation will be inaugurated by the Minister for Labour and Employment Mr. Mallikarjuna Kharge on Friday, 11th May 2012 and will see the participation of nearly 200 representatives from the various stakeholders across the country.

To build support and consensus among all stakeholders involved in the fight against child labour for accelerating action by the Government of India for a complete ban on child labour, Global March Against Child Labour and Bachpan Bachao Andolan through   this 2-day National Consultation on Child Labour Free India aim to achieve the following objectives:

  • Broadening understanding and increased ownership among various stakeholders for ending child labour;
  • An assessment of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act 1986 for improved convergence between different legislations; and
  • Fostering efforts in efficient policy coherence and programme convergence.

On the second day of the event i.e. Saturday, 12th May 2012, four panel discussions and a plenary session would be convened. The themes of the four panel discussions are as under:

  • Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 – is it enough?
  • Education to end child labour
  • Fostering policy coherence on child labour, education and other child rights’ provisions – how to achieve?
  • Strengthening cooperation for effective implementation of legislations, schemes and programmes for elimination of child labour

The plenary session will bring together the Chairs of all the four panel discussions that will help all the participants understand the deliberations and actions identified in the individual panel discussions. Based on the overall discussion an outcome document to achieve the objectives of the National Consultation will be prepared. This document would highlight upon coherent and accelerated action against child labour by all stakeholders in a time- bound and sustainable manner.


Representatives from Trade Unions, Child Rights Organisations, NGOs, Employer Organisations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, other government agencies and members of the Tripartite Committee of Conventions from various departments of Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, State Labour Departments, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Rural Development, UN Agencies etc. would take part in this Consultation.


The Consultation will take place at the Constitution Club, New Delhi, India on 11th May 2012 (from 9.30am - 1:00p.m.) and 12th May 2012 (from 9:30a.m. - 6:30 p.m.).