This article was written by Muna Basheer a student of National University of Advanced Legal Studies
Every civilization considers a child a blessing, a Gift of God. This is not because of the significance of a new life into the earth but because of the tenderness and innocence associated with a child. However, it is this innocence that we subject to exploitation during wars, economic crisis and all other small and large problems. A single word cannot describe the plight of the millions of children around the world who are subject to exploitation and cruelty owing to their age and weak position. Every country has its own share of legislations to prohibit the child labor. International agreements such as UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been established so as to bring about a consensus and co-operation in bringing about a total prohibition of child labour. This article will seek to critically evaluate the child labour legislations of India by analyzing how far these legislations have created an impact on the situation of child labour laws of India.
Fundamental Rights have always been at the Centre of every legal issue. Even when there is a fundamental right strictly prohibiting child labour under Article 24, the Governments from time to time have come up with various legislations to prohibit child labour. While the Factories Act of 1948 restricted children below 14 years of age from working in factories as defined under the Act, the plantation Labour Act 1951, the Mines Act of 1952, Factories Amendment Act of 1954, Merchant Shipping Act of 1958, Motor Transport Workers Act of 1961, Apprentices Act of 1961, Beedi and Cigar Workers Act of 1966 restricted children under specific ages from working under these establishments. It has to be noted that there was no uniform legislation which prohibited all children below a particular age from working under these establishments. There after many commissions were appointed to suggest a uniform comprehensive legislation to prohibit the employment of children under a specific age in all kinds of works. From the recommendations of the National Commission on Labour 1969, Committee on Child Labour 1979, the Gurupadswamy Committee on Child Labour 1976, and the Sanat Mehta Committee 1984, the need for a uniform Child Labour Prohibition Act arose. Thus the Child Labour Prohibition Act 1986 was enacted. The Act was introduced not only to set up a uniform age for prohibition of child labour, but also to regulate the working conditions of children above the restricted age and to clearly specify which all industries can a child above restricted age can work in.
Child Labour Prohibition Act 1986
This is the umbrella legislation that deals with the abolition of child labour in India. Accordingly, children below the age of 14 years are completely restricted form working in any kinds of employment. Those above 14 years of age can work in certain establishments and thus the Act seeks to characterize the establishments into two broad categories. Firstly, those where child labour is completely prohibited and secondly, those where the children can work but only with certain regulations and conditions. Another important step introduced by this Act was that a Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee was appointed by which periodical revision of the Schedule of establishments allowed to employ children above 14 years of age would be made. However, the Act is not to apply in institutions or establishments owned by family members where a child might be employed not for labour but only for assistance. Thereafter many amendments were made to the Act to include many hazardous occupations and at present, the legislation considers 64 occupations as hazardous and where any form of child labour is prohibited.
A much needed Reform
Child Labour is an increasing problem in a country like India particularly being labeled as the child labour capital of the world. At this juncture, it is important to realize that child labor is not an isolated problem. It is interrelated to a variety of other problems. The starving economy has had its impact upon all fields of the society. Child Labour directly or indirectly leads to another acute problem that of bonded child labour. This is more serious because bonded child labour raises more problems pointing to the society’s economy and organization of the employment sector. When a child has to be used to recover the debt of the family, there confronts a more serious issue. Only battling out poverty and unemployment would not solve the issue. 
Added to this is the inadequacy of the present Child Labour Prohibition Act of 1986. The Act covers only industrial sector and rarely does it touch upon the agriculture sector. Moreover, initiating this Act in the unorganized sector is a very difficult if not impossible task. There has to be stringent guidelines regarding the hazardous nature of the various works and not merely should it confine to mines and other related works that invokes danger in the forefront. All those jobs or occupations that deprive a child of his or her education are indeed dangerous to his future. This all inclusive view would help to battle out the total menace of child labour.
Moreover the Section 3 of the Act that deals with the familial occupations not coming under child labour is always capable of being abused as anyone can terrorize the child and simply fall out stating that he or she is a family of the child. Another aspect that needs to be corrected with the Act is the penalty provision. It is a true part that the Act has actually increased the punishment but to what extent they are being implemented is a sad story. Mostly, the offenders get away with punishment and that too for a negligible amount. Even though the Act gave uniformity to the age factor of the child and prohibited child employment below 14 years of age, it is a common knowledge that the certificate of age for most poor kids is unavailable and forged documents act as a cover up. There has to be some stringent guidelines regarding the age factor and the analysis should be based on the mental development and physique rather than merely relying upon an age certificate.
Another aspect that has to be noted is the lack of an interrelation between the various laws that prevail regarding child labour. The above mentioned Acts such as the Plantation Acts, Mines Act are still relevant in India; however, their penalty provisions are quite inadequate. For e.g., violating certain provisions of Children Pledging Labour Act of 1933 has penalty provisions as meager as Rs 200. It is important to note that even though the legislations are alright, there must be proper implementation agencies to implement these. For e.g., special courts can be set up under the Act to book the offender under the Child Labour Act. It is important to note that the role of the government and the vigilante citizenry is inevitable to completely bring about a change in the situation.
Child Labour is a menace that needs to be wiped out from the entire realm of India. If we have a dedicated plan and initiative, then this problem can be solved. A constructive effort from the part of the Government along with a vigilante citizenry supported by the innumerable NGOS can help the children of the streets to shed their tears and come out to the front to lead a good life. We do not have to wait for a July 12 to think about this problem, it is something which is so important to the existence of the society that every moment can be dedicated to tackle this problem. As a famous quote says “Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the sun”
 ASHA BHAJPAI, THE CHILD RIGHTS IN INDIA LAW, POLICY, AND PRACTICE 256-59 (2nd ed. 2006)
 MYRON WEINER, THE CHILD AND THE STATE IN INDIA 167-73(3rd ed. 1991)
 Nigam, Vrinda.”Laws related to Child Labour in India”. Retrieved 06 September 2015.
 Ossie Fernandez, Towards Amendments/Restructuring of the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act 1986, a draft note prepared on behalf of the Legal Working Group, Campaign against Child Labour(CACL)