Chotak Gyatso, Programme Manager, LNP: The term ‘child labour’ is defined as employment of children that deprives them of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. That means it interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely, or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
In our district, there is no exact data or specific study report on child labour issue. But a study was conducted by Leh Nutrition Project in collaboration with UNICEF India on general child rights issues in Khaltse and Nubra region in 2015-2016. It revealed 39 per cent of participants/responder (children and adult both) identified that child labour is an issue in their region. It says Ladakhi children are mostly engaged as domestic helpers by wealthier families or relatives and there are some school drop-outs between 15 to 18 years of age engaged in BRO and other agencies as labour. Not big in number, but it exists in almost every village. Similarly, many non-local children, from Nepal, Bihar and other states, are engaged as child labour. There are children who are working in shops, guest houses, restaurants and automobile mechanic shops in Leh town. Besides, you will find many non-local children begging in Leh town, especially during the religious congregations.
The new Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 2016 completely bans employment of children below 14 in all occupations and enterprises, except those run by his or her own family, provided that education is not hampered. The addition of a new category of persons, called ‘adolescent’, children between 14 to 18 years, are barred from employment in any hazardous occupation. The Act makes child labour a cognizable offence. Employing children below 14 years will be punishable for a jail term between 6 months and two years (earlier 3 months to 1 year) or a penalty between Rs 20,000 and 50,000 or both for the first time. Many experts believe that even this law is also weak because the complete ban on child labour is for those below 14 years. They feel that it should be extended up to 18 years like in the developed countries.
We also need to know that Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents at home, assisting in a family business etc. This kind of activities contributes to children’s development, equip them with skills and experience, and help them get ready to be productive members of society later in life.
In my view, our district is ill-equipped to deal with child labour issues as we do not have ‘District Child Labour Task Force’. It seems that child labour issue is not mandated to District Labour Department. Our policy makers, planners and authorities lacked the sensitivity towards this issues and no initiative has been taken to deal with it. As I have said earlier, the number may be small but child labour is indeed an issue for our district. It will be easier for us to deal with if an intensified awareness initiative is taken by the district authorities with the support of LAHDC. We can be a completely ‘free from child labour’ district within a short span of time if we wish to see it and it will be a proud moment for our district and LAHDC.
‘District Child Labour Task Force’ needed to deal with child labour issues
Proper Facilities should be provided to them
Policy is needed at the local level to curb this issue
Ghulam Nabi Tak, Assistant Labour Commissioner: The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986) is extended to the whole of India. According to this Act, a ‘child’ means a person who has not completed 14 year of age and an ‘adolescent’ means a person who has completed 14 years but has not completed his 18th year.
No child below the age of 14 years can be employed or permitted to work in any occupation or process. A child should be able to receive proper education and all the rights which he/she is entitled to.
Hours and period of work
Besides that, when they complete 14 years of age, and if someone wants to employ them, then there are certain procedures to follow. The time is fixed for them to work. The period of work on each day is 6 hours including lunch break of one hour.
The employer has to give notice to the labour inspector that they have employed an adolescent. The labour inspector will check the birth certificate. In case they don’t have birth certificate, then the inspector will consult a doctor and check whether he/she is above 14 years of age or not. If he/she is above 14 years, then he will give the permit to work.
Maintenance of register
The employer/occupier should maintain a register to be available for inspection by an inspector at all times during working hours or when work is being carried on any establishment. It should include the name and date of birth, hours and period of work and the intervals of rest and the nature of work.
Health and safety
There are rules for the health and safety of the adolescent employed in an establishment. It should be clean and hygienic. Facilities for disposal of wastes and effluents, ventilation and temperature, dust and fume and artificial humidification and others should be there.
Whoever employs a child or permits a child to work in contravention of the provision of Section 3 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, or with fine which shall not be less than Rs 20,000 but which may extend to 50,000 rupees or with both.
Plans & initiatives of the Department
We are planning to conduct a drive soon, and if we find any cases of child labour, we will hand over the child to Child Welfare Committee. Strong action will be taken against violators of child labour law and will file a ‘challan’ in the court.
We register all the labours in the labour department in which financial aid to the children of labours are provided for education. The financial aid starts from ₹2,500 to 50,000 annually. So far, 8,989 labours are registered, out of which 4,000 are non-local.
Last year, we disbursed over ₹1cr and 10 lakh for education, health and disability. Compensation will also be provided for the registered labours. In case of natural death, they will be provided with ₹ 2 lakh, and in case of accidental death, they are provided with Rs 4 lakh.
Creating awareness on the issue
Discouraging demand for child labour
Concerted efforts from all sections of the society to curb child labour
Lodging complaint if there are any case of child labour