Flak for childhood tea seller Modi over plans for some young labor in India

Wed May 13, 2015 9:04am EDT
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By Rajesh Kumar Singh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to exclude some family jobs from a revamped child labor law in a move with an unmistakable echo of his own childhood, when he helped his father sell tea from kettles at a railway station.

The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to a 1986 child labor law, aimed at imposing a broader ban on childhood work but also introducing a loophole for family businesses that critics say undermines efforts to end the practice.

Under the proposed changes, which must now be approved by parliament, children below the age of 14 may work after school or during vacations to help their "family or family enterprises".

The amendments would also apply to the entertainment industry and sports, except the circus.

Modi's administration said the proposed changes take into account India's socio-economic conditions and would protect its social fabric.

"In a large number of families, children help their parents in their occupations... children also learn the basics of occupations," the government said in a statement.

The move has drawn ire of child activists who say the exemption would open the doors for employing children in industries such as matchbox manufacturing, footwear and carpet making and would slow progress in eradicating child labor.

Some fear the changes could also be misused to deny education to girls, whose school drop-out rate is almost double than that of boys.   Continued...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the launch of the Jan Dhan Yojana, or the Scheme for People's Wealth, in New Delhi August 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi