India’s Upper House on July 19 passed the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill. It now completely bans the employment of children under 14 in all fields, except in family business.  The bill is expected to sail through the Lower House and be signed into law by the president.

Church leaders and activists in India have welcomed an amendment aimed at tightening the law against child labor, and expressed hope that authorities will enforce it stringently.

Ucannews reported that “It is indeed a welcome step as far as child labor is concerned. I hope the government will put serious effort into implementing it,” as having said by Father Jaison Vadassery, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for labor.

The existing law prohibited the employment of children between 15 and 18 in certain hazardous occupations such as mining, or working with inflammable substances or explosives. It also regulated the employment of minors engaged as domestic or restaurant workers.Violators of the new law, when it comes into force, will face up to two years in jail or a fine of up to 50,000 rupees (US$744), or both.

“The new law should not be only on paper. The government should bring in mechanisms to ensure employers abide by it,” Father Vadassery said.

The government estimates about 4.3 million children aged between five and 14 work full time, mostly in the agricultural field. Activists say the actual number could be much higher.

Image courtesy: Indian Express