NEW DELHI — India’s government has proposed a ban on the employment of children younger than 14, as it tries to push more youngsters into school and address an issue that has sullied the country’s image as an emerging economic powerhouse.
The proposed amendment to India’s existing child labor laws would impose a three-year jail term and a fine of $900 for anyone who employs children younger than 14 in any work at all or uses children younger than 18 in hazardous industries.
If adopted by Parliament, the amendment, which the cabinet approved this week, would signal an end to India’s long-standing official tolerance of the inevitability of poor children being in the workforce.
Child and human rights campaigners, as well as the International Labor Organization, welcomed the move as a landmark development in India’s child labor debate, though they admitted that enforcement would be a huge challenge.
“The time is absolutely right,” said economist A.K. Shiva Kumar, a member of the influential National Advisory Council, which recommends policies for the Congress party. “They’ve really recognized that the long-term benefits of education are far more consequential than the short-term gains of child labor.”