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In 25 years, only one prosecuted in Karnataka for child labour

Child Labour

It has been 25 years since child labour was banned under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, across the country. But statistics show that in 25 years, only 446 cases of child labour were registered, and only one personprosecuted in the state.

With a low rate of conviction, child labour is flourishing, said activists.

At the recently concluded Campaign Against Child Labour Karnataka (CACL), south zone chapter in Chennai, activists demanded amendment in the Act to give harsh punishment to violators.

“The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, has failed miserably at protecting children from turning into labourers. The Act needs to be amended to give severe punishment to people involved,” said a member of CACL, Karnataka chapter.

People working for child rights have also demanded to change the definition of ‘child’ under various laws.

“In most of the laws/Acts, a child means a person up to the age of 14. We want to raise the age bar to 18,” said the member of CACL.

Activists said there were about 2,00,000 child labourers in Bangalore, working in houses, restaurants, dhabas, railway and bus stations.NGOs claim Karnataka has as many as 10,00,000 child labourers. But there is no exact data. The government estimates the figure to be about 3,00,000. Moreover, the notification on prohibition of employment of children as domestic help and in restaurants or roadside dhabas came into effect on October 10, 2006. According to it, violators could face jail for up to two years and a fine up to Rs20,000.

“The notification also did not help curb the child labour menace in the state. It continues right under the government’s nose,” said Vasudev Sharma, member of Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR). Activists felt that once Right to Education (RTE) Act is implemented with full vim and vigour no child will be forced to work.

“A child out of school is a potential child labourer. Once the RTE Act is implemented, curb on child labour could be implemented with ease,” said an activist.

Recently, labour minister BN Bache Gowda was alleged to have engaged child labourers while hosting his son’s wedding party. Though he denied the allegations, activists are demanding a probe into the matter.

“This shows that politicians, who are supposed to protect child rights, are themselves forcing children to work. The case needs to be investigated,” said the member of CACL.

DNA, March 5, 2011

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