Bhartiya Janata Party MP Varun Gandhi on Tuesday criticised some of the changes suggested in the child labour amendment bill, brought by his own party’s government.
Slamming the amendments proposed in the bill in Lok Sabha, Varun Gandhi said, "It's not leniency, this is lunacy....", while referring to certain provisions relating to punishment for violation of the child labour laws.
Participating in the debate on the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016, Gandhi wanted to know how the authorities would determine whether the parent violating the law was a first-time offender or a repeat offender.
Under the proposed amendment to the child labour law which has already been approved by the Rajya Sabha, there is no punishment for a first-time offender parent, but there is provision for penalty for repeat offenders.
The Lok Sabha yesterday okayed the bill that seeks to prohibit employment of children below 14 years in any "profession" but allows "home-based work", such as helping their families in forests, agricultural fields and small family-run units.
Varun Gandhi also raised questions on the implementation of the law especially with regard to prosecution of offenders.
Observing that the Right to Education law provided for free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 years, he wondered what a child would do before he or she completes 18 years.
He also demanded that the list of hazardous industries for purposes of child labour laws be expanded to include construction where children are forced to assist their working parents.
Varun further said that the provision authorising the government to omit hazardous industries from the list should be removed and added that only Parliament should have the authority to prune the list.
The nation should dream of a future wherein a child is seen holding a book in his hand and not agricultural equipments or a broom, he added.
Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi also took strong objection to provisions of the bill and termed it a “missed opportunity” for the country’s children.
Satyarthi said that he had hoped that the leaders would have valued the freedom and childhood much greater than their votes.
“Child Labour Bill is a missed opportunity for the country’s children. I was hoping that today the leaders of the country would value that the freedom and childhood is much greater than the value of your votes,” he said yesterday.
Satyarthi, who registered his protest with the Labour Minister, however, applauded the MPs who had made strong points against it, including Varun Gandhi, who dubbed the proposed amendments as “lunacy”.
The UNICEF also raised concerns over the new bill. It said the provision will impact children from poorer families and legitimize family work, thus causing further disadvantage to them as there is a lot of outsourced work carried out from home.
"Under the new Child Labour Act, the more invisible forms of child labour+ and exploitation may go unseen and the most vulnerable and marginalized children may end up with irregular school attendance, lower levels of learning," said Euphrates Gobina, UNICEF chief of education in India.