A study by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) points out that child labour among vulnerable communities has increased by nearly 280% in Tamil Nadu, compared to the pre-COVID-19 situation. The law is clear on the issue of child labour and punishes anyone employing children. Let us understand the legal position better.
What is child labour?
Child labour is the employment of children for work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and/or interferes with their schooling.
Is child labour illegal?
Yes. The right against exploitation is a fundamental right under the Constitution of India, 1950. Article 24 of the Constitution states that no one should employ children below the age of fourteen years to work in any factory or mine, or any other hazardous employment.
Employing children below 14 years
The law absolutely prohibits the employment of children below 14 years. Some exceptions are allowed for children helping out in family businesses or working as child artists. The prohibition of employment of children below fourteen years is linked to children’s right to education, as it prevents them from attending school.
The law prohibits the employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) in certain hazardous occupations and processes including mining, domestic work, handloom industry etc. It also regulates the hours and period of work of adolescents.
What is the punishment for violating the law?
The law punishes employers who violate the law and engage children/adolescents with imprisonment from six months to two years, and/or a fine of Rupees twenty thousand to fifty thousand.
What is the role of the Government and parents in eliminating child labour?
The Constitution says that the Government should try to ensure that children are not forced into unsuitable occupations due to their poor economic situation. It should give children opportunities to develop healthily in free and dignified conditions that protect them from exploitation and abandonment. Parents/guardians also have a duty to provide educational opportunities for children between 6 and 14 years.
To know more about the law on child labour, read our explainer.