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India Denies Child Labour Allegations Amid CECA Negotiations


The Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry has strongly rebutted accusations of child labor raised in a recent report by Australia’s Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth. These allegations come amidst ongoing negotiations between India and Australia for the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), intended to expand upon the existing Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) inked in 2022.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Allegations by the Australian Panel
  1. India’s Legal Framework on Child Labour and Forced Labour
  2. International Labour Organization Conventions on Child Labour

Allegations by the Australian Panel:

  • Concerns about child and forced labor in India were raised in the Australian committee’s report, based on claims by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and the State Public Services Federation (SPSF Group).
  • The report recommended that the Australian Government include human rights, labor, and environmental chapters in its trade agreements, aligning with United Nations and International Labour Organization conventions and declarations signed by Australia.
Statistics on Child Labor and Modern Slavery in India:
  • The 2023 Global Slavery Index by Walk Free estimated that there were 11 million people living in modern slavery in India on any given day in 2021, the highest number globally.
  • Census 2011 data indicates that out of the total child population in India aged 5-14 years (259.6 million), 10.1 million (3.9% of the total child population) are engaged in some form of work, either as ‘main worker’ or ‘marginal worker’, with an additional 42.7 million children out of school.
India’s Response:
  • The Indian government has vehemently denied the allegations, emphasizing that existing rules and regulations prohibit child labor and bonded labor.
  • India’s Constitution safeguards labor rights and empowers both central and state governments to enact laws like the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, to protect workers’ rights, including the formation of unions and prevention of harassment.
  • All business entities in India are required to be licensed by local governing bodies and must comply with labor welfare laws prescribed by both union and state governments.
  • Processing units maintain comprehensive records related to processing, quality checks, employee training, and compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

India’s Legal Framework on Child Labour and Forced Labour:

Constitutional Provisions:
  • Article 23: Prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labor, ensuring protection against exploitation and degrading work conditions.
  • Article 24: Prohibits the employment of children under 14 in factories, mines, or hazardous occupations, aiming to protect children from exploitation and ensure access to education.
  • Article 39: Outlines principles for ensuring equal rights to livelihood, equal pay for equal work, and protection of workers’ health and children’s well-being.
Legislations Against Child Labour:
  • Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986: Bans employing children under 14 in all work, with exceptions for family businesses and the entertainment industry, and restricts adolescents (14-18) from hazardous occupations.
  • Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015: Considers working children as “in need of care and protection” and outlines various situations warranting such protection.
  • National Policy on Child Labour (1987) and Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, focus on the rehabilitation of working children and ensuring free education.
Legislations Against Forced Labour:
  • Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976: Criminalizes bonded labor and mandates the rehabilitation of freed bonded laborers.
  • Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourer, 2021: Provides financial assistance for the rehabilitation of freed bonded labor, shared by Central and State Governments.

International Labour Organization Conventions on Child Labour:

  • Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29): Prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including debt bondage. This is ratified in India.
  • Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100): Ensures equal remuneration for work of equal value, regardless of gender. This is ratified in India.
  • Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138): Stipulates the minimum age for work should not be below the age of compulsory schooling and not less than 15 years, with exceptions for developing countries. This is ratified in India.
  • Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182): Prohibits hazardous work for children below 18 years. This is ratified in India.
  • Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98): Establishes rules for freedom of unionization and collective bargaining, protecting workers from discrimination for union activities. This is not ratified in India.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024