The Consequences of Preventing Children from Working
We welcome the Central Government's concern for children apparent behind their move to include domestic work, work in hotels, eateries, dhabas (roadside eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spasand in other recreational centres in the list of hazardous occupations as under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986.
However, our past experiences have shown that moves that only have ‘good intentions' have actually resulted in harmfully affecting the very children they intended to help.
So, in connection with the present move by the government, we have several serious questions to place before the Government:
* Has the Government prepared itself to deal with the consequences of such a notification, which is sure to leave many children without a job and income from now until October 10 and beyond, leaving them to struggle for survival on the streets? What is the set up in place to deal with the huge number of children with no place to go and no way to go back home if they desire to do so?
* What is the government's strategy to ensure that children themselves are adequately informed of this ban, which will have a tremendous impact on their lives in the near future? In the rush to provide for some rights of children, is the government willing to violate others?
* How has the government equipped itself in implementing this ban? How will this ban be any different from the numerous other banned occupations and processes that continue to break the law by enslaving millions of children in subhuman working conditions?
* Where is the detailed strategy plan for identification of child labour in these sectors? In all these sectors, there is a danger of rendering children even more invisible and vulnerable, if the identification process and subsequent follow up is poorly executed. The hired child helpers who now have some freedom to move around in public spaces, form their organisations, interact with other children, after the ban may end up being literally jailed in their places of work.
* Are there any plans to consult children to chalk out rehabilitation options acceptable and appropriate for them, lest such options, as in the past, inflict more hardship than benefit on the already precarious existence of these children?
* Are there any plans for the rehabilitation of the families of these children, who have been forced by many circumstances to send their children to work? Unless these root causes are addressed holistically and progressively, this ban will be treating just the symptoms, not the causes of the problem.
* There are also a significant number of young people in the age group of 14-18 years who are working in these sectors under equally harsh situations. What does the government plan to do ensure that their rights are not violated?
The government should provide answers to these questions. The public, not least the children, have a right to such information that is going to impact their lives. They also need to be consulted and their opinions should be sought in providing the alternatives most suited to their needs and to actively shape the policies of the country.
If the issues listed above are not addressed and the alternatives for children and the families concerned are not in place before these additional sectors are prohibited, this move may end up harming children and forcing them into even more hazardous and invisible sectors of labour.
If the Government really wants to ensure that children are helped by this move, we would be happy to strategise with them on the implementation of this ban. We can even request Bhima Sangha, a working children's union in Karnataka, to help the government in this regard.
Damodar Acharya Executive Director
The Concerned for Working Children (CWC)
303/2, L.B. Shastri Nagar, Vimanapura Post, Bangalore - 560 017 India
# : 91-80-25234611/ 25234270 web: www.workingchild.org
In 2012 CWC were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize