The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Child Labour Bill during the ongoing monsoon session, bringing in a number of amendments to the law from 1986. While it continues to prohibit children below 14 years to be employed in any "profession", it allows them to take part in "home-based work", such as helping their families in forests and fields.
The amendment also defines children between the ages of 14 and 18 as "adolescents" and permits them to be employed in any profession besides the "hazardous occupations and processes" listed in the 1986 law, The Indian Express reported. The changes also include heftier penalties on violators – a jail term of six month to two years, from the earlier three months to one-year term, and a fine of Rs 20,000-Rs 50,000, up from Rs 10,000-Rs 20,000.
Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said he is confident that the Child Labour Bill will curtail the practice. He also justified allowing children to be engaged in "home-based work", saying there were no "employer-employee equations" in these situations.
However, a few Opposition members pointed out what could be considered loopholes. Trinamool Congress leader Vivek Gupta said agriculture was not deemed hazardous under the law, but the use of chemicals made it harmful. He added that employing children in family businesses of beedi-making and carpet weaving also put them at risk. The Bill was passed by a voice vote amid opposition.