Child Labour: Prohibition v. Abolition w.r.t Right to Education

Child labour is a huge menace in India. Some of the several reasons could be poverty, lack of livelihood, conflicts, drought, natural disasters, migration etc. On the other hand, they are very cheap labour and malleable to the demands of the employer and not aware of their rights. Read along to know more about how a zero tolerance policy towards child labour is the only way forward.


The work which deprives children’s childhood, their potential, their dignity, and which is harmful to their physical as well as mental development is referred as Child Labour[1], whereas the work could be mentally, physically, sociologically or morally dangerous and harmful to the children. Presently, there are approximately 10.1 million working children in India of age between 5-14 years. Child Labour is most prevalent in Uttar Pradesh (2.1 Million), followed by Bihar (1.0 Million) and Rajasthan (0.84 Million).[2]Some of the several reasons could be poverty, lack of livelihood, conflicts, drought, natural disasters, migration etc. On the other hand, they are very cheap labour and malleable to the demands of the employer and not aware of their rights.

Legislative Initiative

Our Constitution provides for Prohibition of employment of children in factories etc. under Article 24.[3]The Geneva Declaration of the Right of Children Act, 1924, followed by Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 integrated the basic concept of human rights and rights of children which encouraged major changes in India, when the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 was enforced. The major difference between Prohibition and Regulation Concept can be seen in the preamble itself, where it states that:

An act to prohibit the engagement of children in certain employments and to regulate the conditions of work of children in certain other employments

Hereby, it can be inferred that all employments aren’t prohibited, rather certain other are regulated, in terms of the conditions only. In addition to it, Part III of the act confers the same where working hours, weekly holidays etc. are provided. Meanwhile Part II of the act confers Prohibition for the work as provided under Part A of the Schedule. However, this prohibition doesn’t apply wherein any process is carried on with the aid of his family, or related to any Government school established, or receiving assistance, or recognized etc.

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Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016

Recently in July 2016, the Parliament passed the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016, which widens its scope against child labour and provides for stricter punishments for violations. Changes brought are:

  1. Completely banned employment of children below 14, except employment run by own family, provided that education doesn’t hampered.
  2. ‘Adolescence’ word introduced to widen the scope of enactment by covering the children aged between 14-18 years.
  3. Recognized the child labour as cognizable offence and strict penalties were introduced for employers as well as parents.
  4. Created Rehabilitation Fund for the purpose to rehabilitate affected children.
  5. Confer powers on a District Magistrate to ensure that the provisions of the law are properly carried out and implemented.

However loophole to such enactment lies in the aspect of ‘family enterprises’ which is not prohibited, rather regulated as it may be difficult to determine whether an enterprise is owned by a family or some person has employed the whole family to run the enterprise.

Abolition of Child Labour

The word ‘abolition’refers to ensure that each and everychild has the chance to develop physically and mentally to her or his full potential, which is also enshrined under the Directive Principles of State Policy.[4] But, this does not mean stopping of all work, International labour and the Child Labour Act, 1986 allow the distinction to be made between what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable forms. However, “the worst forms of child labour” are totally unacceptable for all children under the age of 18 years, and their abolition is a matter for urgent and immediate action.

Impact of Right to Education

In an effective strategy to eradicate child labour, relevant and accessible basic education shall be provided so as to make them aware about basic knowledge including rights. Such initiative taken by Indian legislature is ‘Right to Education’, as a part of Fundamental right[5], and Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009[6] (also commonly referred as ‘Right to Education Act, 2009’) to ensure basic education as free and compulsory for each and every child aged between 6 to 14 years. The impact of the RTE Act can be understood from the fact that a bright future awaits even for children from poor homes.Earlier, due to most common reason of poverty, many children couldn’t afford to go to school.RTE had also introduced the Concept of ‘neighborhood school’ which relates to availability of a school within safe and accessible distance from where a child lives.According to UNESCO’s 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report, the poorest young women in India are projected to achieve universal literacy by 2080.[7]

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As mentioned above, maximum steps were taken in order to stop Child Labour, more especially the 2016 Amendment but it also lies with loopholes. The initiative of compulsory education is seems perfect merely in theoretical sense. There is somehow a different reality, where we need to divert our attention from enrollment rates, infrastructure etc. to learning outcomes to assure the young generation get maximum access to most beneficial quality education. The Child Labour somehow has become a social norm which we are accepting and tolerating. This problem will tend to continue until we as a society follow a zero-tolerance attitude towards it.

[1]International Labour Organization, “What is Child Labour”. Available at:–en/index.htm Retrieved 04-Oct-2018.

[2] UNICEF India, “Child Labour”. Available at: Retrieved on 04-Oct-2018.

[3]Article 24. Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc.: No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

[4]Article 39. Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing—

(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

[5]Article 21-A. Right to Education: The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine. (Inserted through The Constitutional (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002)

[6] Act No. 35 of 2009, w.e.f. 01 April 2010.

[7]UNESCO, “Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/4 by EFA Global”. Available at:, Retrieved on 04-Oct-2018.