No work except homework for children under 18: experts
New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Children should no work except homework and the minimum age for employment should be increased from 14 to 18, activists said Tuesday, the 11th World Day Against Child Labour.
"All forms of child labour except homework should be banned. The age to employ a child has to go up to 18 (from 14 currently).
"On the one hand, the government says that children in the country shall have the Right To Education and, on the other, it allows children to be employed in so-called non-hazardous activities, depriving them of their right," Soha Moitra, director of Child Rights and You (CRY), a prominent child rights organisation, told IANS.
"There has been some talk of a cabinet level proposal that aims at making these amendments. However, the government also has to ensure proper education facilities. Then, even the poor will not deny their children the right to education," she added.
CRY Tuesday initiated an online campaign that will allow people to take photographs of instances of child labour and post it online, helping to catch the guilty.
According to Sanjay Gupta of the Delhi-based Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), the need of the hour was to ensure life-skills for "rescued children".
"The government should increase the age limit in the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act but only if it can ensure alternative modes of education which also provide the so-called rescued children with appropriate life skills," Gupta told IANS.
"The age of 14 to 18 is very conducive to learning new skills. Often, working children have mastered some trade so when they are rescued their education must be such that they don't lose their skills that could be very important for their livelihoods once they turn 18."
Further, policymakers have to take into account the invisible population of child workers, said Gupta, who claimed that many child workers were not accounted for and ineffective policies were made due to faulty statistics.
CHETNA, along with the organisation Badhtey Kadam, Monday organised a Ghost Parade, where some 50 street-children urged the government to either ensure their rights or declare them ghosts.
"It is disheartening to know that the government can afford to spend Rs.35 lakh for the maintenance of toilets at the Planning Commission's office but is not willing to invest in matters relating to children who are the future of the country," said 16-year-old Shanno, the president of Badhtey Kadam.
"To make matters worse, law enforcement is very weak. Little has been done so far to rescue and rehabilitate child workers and to punish their employers. The law needs to be strictly enforced and culprits should not be allowed to get away with exploiting children," said Shireen Vakil Miller of Save the Children.
According to UNICEF, India has as many as 447 million children, of which 12 percent are child labourers.
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