Indian Constitution has conferred some human rights to the people of India. It empowers the citizens to live in dignity with rights of freedom and equality. These rights are guaranteed to all citizens and are enforceable in any court of law. The people of India have lived an unwarranted life and were exploited by intruders for a long time. After Independence, the rights of each individual came to be recognized. Rights against exploitation have been incorporated in our Indian Constitution for the protection of a citizen from any kind of forced labor and abolishment of child labour. Exploitation means the use of others' services through force without payment. It also includes protection against human trafficking.
Article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labour. It protects the individual not only against the state but it also protects them against private citizens.
Article 23(1) strictly prohibits trafficking in human beings, begar (labour without payment), and similar forms of forced labour. It also states that any violation of this provision is an offense and the person held liable will be punished in accordance with the law.
Article 23(2) provides the state with the power to compel a person to provide his/her service or labour for public purposes. But in doing so the state cannot discriminate on the ground only of religion, race, caste or class or any one of them.
Parliament has enacted laws for the fulfillment of objectives of the article:
1. Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956
This act prohibits immoral traffic in human beings. This act was passed in pursuance of the International Convention in New York in 1950.
2. Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
This act prohibits every kind of bonded labour.
Article 24 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in factories, mines, or other hazardous places. It is read with Article 39(e) and 39(f) which imposes an obligation on the state to the health and strength of the workers, men and women and children are not abused and forced by economic necessity to get engaged in hazardous activities which do not suit their age or strength.
However, the article mentions only of employment of children in hazardous places.
Parliament has enacted laws for the fulfillment of the objective of the article:
1. The Factories Act, 1948
This act defined a minimum age limit for the employment of children in factories. The Act set a minimum age of 14 years. In 1954, this Act was amended to provide that children below the age of 17 could not be employed at night.
2. The Mines Act, 1952
This Act prohibits the employment of people under the age of 18 years in mines.
3. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
This Act was enacted to curb child labour prevalent in India. It gave details of how a child could be employed. It designates a child as a person who has not completed his/her 14th year of age and also prohibits the employment of children in 13 occupations and 57 processes.
4. Child Labour (Prohibition&Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016
This Act completely forbids the employment of children below 14 years of age. It bans the employment of children between the ages of 14 and 18 in hazardous occupations. It allows children to be employed in certain family occupations and also as artists. This amendment intensified the punishment for the offender.
5. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017
The Government notified some rules in this amendment to provide a broad and specific framework for prevention, prohibition, rescue, and rehabilitation of child and adolescent workers. The rules clarified issues concerning the employment of family enterprises and also provides safeguards for artists in the working hours and conditions of the workplace.
An exploited society can never grow and nourish in all sectors. For our country to be 'developed', we need to stop forced labour and allow every individual to grow. Some marginalized groups of people are still being harassed and exploited. Children are the future of a country, they need to be educated rather than be forced to work in hazardous sites. The proper implementation of laws can thus be a ray of hope for these people.