New Delhi, August 2, 2006: For the last two-and-a-half decade Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and its partners have been working tirelessly for complete elimination of child labour. The government has banned the employment of children as domestic servants or servants or in dhabas (roadside eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spas or in other recreational centers, effective from 10 October 2006 following BBA’s incessant efforts.
The decision has been taken by the Labour Ministry on the recommendation of the Technical Advisory Committee on Child Labour. The committee had stated that the occupations mentioned were hazardous for children and had recommended their inclusion in the occupations which are prohibited for persons below 14 years under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986.
BBA’s struggle against child domestic labour began with Ashraf in 1996. Young Ashraf, who was employed at the residence of an IAS officer, was burnt with a stove by his employer because he dared to drink the milk meant for his child. BBA took up Ashraf’s case with NHRC, and after extensive investigation in 1999 a service rule was passed prohibiting government servants from employing children as domestic servants. By issuing this notification, the Government has extended these restrictions to everyone and is recognition to BBA’s efforts in the fight against child labour, especially domestic child labour.
BBA hope that this decision by the government would go a long way in ameliorating the conditions of hapless working children, but there is still a long way to go before we are able to protect our children from all kinds of economic exploitation and provide free quality and compulsory education to all children. It is important now that machinery for the implementation of this new notification is quickly and effectively put in place to identify, release/ withdraw, rehabilitate and provide for safe repatriation and reintegration of the child domestic labourers into their families. BBA would also be working to mount pressure on the government to revive the Primary Education Bill making free and compulsory primary education a reality.
Civil society organizations partnership and leadership has been crucial in this notification. Often times, it is the implementers who get away with blatant violation of the law, as has been seen with the rule prohibiting government servants from employing child domestic workers. With more than 60 million children engaged as child labourers and the worlds’ largest pool of out-of-school children in India, it is time not just to bring laws banning child labour but also to put in place an effective machinery for strict implementation of the law.
Kailash Satyarthi, Global March and BBA Chairperson on remarked on the occasion, “It is a moral victory for us as we have been raising this issue time and again at all fora. Governments’ initial denial of this grave problem has due to our efforts given way to this notification. With the law now in place to act as a deterrent, it is absolutely essential to put this into action at the ground level, starting with identification, release, rehabilitation and repatriation of the child labourers, else it will once again turn out to be a toothless tiger.”
* Bachpan Bachao Andolan is a core partner organisation of the Global March Against Child Labour as well as a founding member
Statement by Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson, Global March Against Child Labour and Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA)
The Government of India's notification to ban some shameful forms of child labour like employment of children as domestic work and in street restaurants, dhabas, is a great moral victory of Indian Civil Society. BBA with its 750 partner NGOs and a number of other groups have been demanded the complete elimination of child labour as it is detrimental to health, education and development of a child.
With the law, now in place to act as deterrent will prove an additional legal instrument. This will help in generating wide spread awareness and will create a strong moral ground against the child labour.
Ironically government does not have data on domestic child labour or children working in hospitality industry (dhabas-roadside teashops, restaurants, resorts, spas, etc). However, Bachpan Bachao Andolan estimates that at least 10 million (1 Crore) children are compelled to their childhood are the victims of child servitude in each of these two sectors along.
Since, as domestic help is "invisible" slavery, the agony and plights including branding, beating and rape remains unheard and unnoticed.
Looking at the track record, since the enactment of Child Labour Law 1986, not a single offender has been imprisoned for 2 years as per the provision of the law. Similarly, a path breaking judgment by the Supreme Court of India in 1996 on Child Labour abolition has been grossly and completely violated. It would be appropriate remind that BBA has undertook the struggle against child domestic labour.
Now, the government has to show adequate political will substantiated with well trained enforcement machinery as well as prompt and effective rehabilitative and educational measures. Civil society organisations, NGOs, Village Panchayats, teaching communities and particularly Residential Welfare Associations in urban setup must be invited to partner with the govt. agencies. A massive and sustained media campaign must be launch by the state. And the most important is to fix the accountability of the enforcement agencies. The Labour, Police and Factory Inspector as well as other relevant department officials must be punished, if child labour is there, in their jurisdiction.
The BBA through its partner organisations as well as 80,000 volunteers spread across the country is forming Vigilance Committee and mobile rescue units in major cities and towns in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Haryana, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.