Hiring children under 18 now an offence in R'than

To make the child labour laws more stringent, the state government has raised the age bar on child labour to 18 years from the existing threshold of 14. Now, if anybody below 18 years is employed, it will be considered as child labour.

After Delhi, Rajasthan is the second state which has put the age limit at 18 years, said a member of Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

A fine of Rs 20,000 will be imposed on the employer of such children. The state government will also contribute Rs 5,000 for each child in the Child Labour Welfare Fund, which would be spent on his or her rehabilitation.

The six-page notification issued by the chief secretary C K Mathew also acknowledged that a large number of children are working in occupations such as gem polishing, Aari Tari, carpet manufacturing, brick kilns, domestic work, begging, bidi industry, mines, agriculture, tea kiosks and dhabas (small eateries). Also,a large number of them were being trafficked out of the state for labour at Bt Cotton fields where they work as bonded labourers for 10 to 16 hours a day.

The state government has announced a comprehensive Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the six-page notification for identification, rescue, protection and rehabilitation for children employed in different occupations. The state government has also fixed roles of the police, labour department, child welfare committee, social justice department and district administration.

Child labour is a barrier in realising the state government’s aim to impart free and compulsory education. The working children above 14 years will be rescued with the help of the police, it adds.

Though the Child Labour Prohibition Act, 1986, is in force in the state,  it treats work by children below 14 years in certain occupations as valid and does not facilitate rehabilitation of rescued children. Against this backdrop, the notification has invoked
the Juvenile Justice Act, which defines a child’s age as 18 years, as the basis for taking action against child labour.

The decision has a come as a major victory for the advocacy groups working for abolition of child labour with the demand for revision in the definition of working children to prohibit engagement of children up to  18 years in both hazardous and non-hazardous occupations.

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