The National Coordination Committee of the CACL met this week (26th-28th July). The main focus of the discussion was the Right to Education Act. It is felt that the RTE should not be dismissed, but must be engaged with critically.
The definition of child labour must include all children under age 18 in accordance with the UN definition of child. This means that the current position of the RTE is unsatisfactory, as it only covers ages 6-14, and therefore not all children.
It was found that Articles 21A and 24 of the constitution contradict each other. Free and compulsory education cannot be guaranteed when child labour in the non-hazardous sector is permitted. Similarly the Child Labour (prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 must be repealed and replaced, so that all forms of child labour are included.
Moreover, the RTE provide no provisions to ensure the quality of the education provided. Free and compulsory education is worthless if it is sub-standard.
The CACL are also calling for the Indian Government to remove the reservation on Article 32 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that prevents economic exploitation of children, and thereby commit themselves to total prohibition of all forms of child labour.
The RTE has been heralded by some as a seminal Law that finally provides universal education for all Indian children. The CACL and other civil society groups strongly disagree with this and hope that the changes recommended are made.
To read the press release: press note NCC