Recommendations to the Government of India
· Immediately launch an investigation into the proper enforcement of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and other relevant laws regarding bonded child labor. Such an investigation should address whether authorities have failed to enforce the act. If found to have ignored the act or behaved negligently, those authorities should be appropriately disciplined.
· Ensure that states and districts not only establish bonded labor vigilance committees, as required by the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, but also that they oversee these committees to ensure that they function according to the law. The government should ensure that a sufficient number of qualified investigators be included in the committees to guarantee the act's implementation.
· Amend the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, to:
· Define the age of majority consistently with international law. Set a minimum age for employment.
· Pressure states to rehabilitate children removed from hazardous occupations in accord with the Supreme Court's order in M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. Federal funds should be withheld from those states until they demonstrate adequate enforcement of the decision.
· Significantly strengthen and enforce punishment for violators of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, and the Factories Act, 1948. This should include forfeiture of operating licenses, seizure of manufacturing equipment, and short and long-term closure of facilities, as well as increased fines and imprisonment.
· Vastly expand current efforts to train officials charged with enforcing the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. Factory and labor inspectors should be trained on the bonded labor law, specifically its application to children, as well as the child labor law. Inspection reports and other documentation prepared by labor and factory inspectors should include, along with other information about children's work, questions about a debt or advance.
· Collect and immediately make public data on enforcement of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, and the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, for every state. This data should include information about each worker, including age, gender, and occupation, as well as rehabilitation measures taken, prosecutions, and convictions.
· Amend the Factories Act, 1948, to cover all factories or workshops employing child labor, not just those with twenty or more workers, or ten or more workers where power is used.
· The Central Silk Board should condition all entitlements, subsidies, and other concessions extended to the silk industry on compliance with the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, and other relevant laws.
· Continue cooperation with international organizations working to abolish bonded child labor, in particular the International Labour Organization's International Programme to Eliminate Child Labour (IPEC); cooperate with IPEC to conduct a baseline survey of bonded child labor in conjunction with the SIMPOC program.
· Ratify ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and the 1960 Convention Against Discrimination in Education.
· Strengthen the capacity of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), particularly to operate branch offices in all states with enough financial resources and powers to initiate prosecution of cases. Amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to give the NHRC the powers of a criminal court so that its decisions will be binding.
· Request the NHRC to investigate bonded child labor in the silk industry, especially in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.
· Implement the recommendations made by the National Police Commission in 1980, particularly those that address police negligence in the registration of cases.
· Fully implement the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995.18 In particular, ensure strict implementation of the bonded labor-related provisions of the Atrocities Act.
· Create the proposed National Commission for Children with a clearly defined mandate that includes bonded child labor and enforcement powers.
· Fully implement the right to free and compulsory education as required under article 45 of the Indian constitution. Improve the quality of schools, particularly in rural areas. Design and immediately implement measures to eliminate caste-based discrimination in schools and monitor for such discrimination.
· In close consultation with NGOs, include concrete and time-bound steps to eliminate bonded child labor as part of a national plan of action to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the goals and targets agreed at the U.N. Special Session on Children in May 2002, and ensure that this plan is fully implemented.
Recommendations to State Governments
· Remove existing disincentives for districts magistrates and law enforcement to identify and free bonded laborers, to prosecute employers who violate the law, and to obtain convictions. Any official who fails to protect bonded child laborers or prosecute their employers, whether through negligence, willful ignorance, or complicity with employers, should also be prosecuted. Ensure that bonded labor vigilance committees in all districts are fully functioning.
· For states that lack them, adopt rules implementing the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986.
· Rehabilitate all children in hazardous occupations in accord with the Supreme Court's order in M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.
· Ensure full implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, including the appointment of special courts, special prosecutors, and vigilance and monitoring committees. Provide training in proper procedures under the act for judges and prosecutors.
· Implement measures designed to ensure that states are in compliance with article 46 of the constitution, which directs states to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of economic exploitation.
· Take immediate steps to prevent further violence, social boycotts, and other forms of discrimination against Dalits and to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks, acts of discrimination, and bondage. Any official or member of the police who fails to respond to calls for protection from villagers, or fails to properly investigate and prosecute acts of violence, discrimination, or bondage should be disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate.
· State sericulture departments should condition all licensing and registration, as well as entitlements, subsidies, and other concessions, on compliance with the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, and other relevant laws. (See related recommendations above.)
· In states that lack them, including Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, create state human rights commissions. All state human rights commissions should aggressively pursue bonded child labor in their jurisdictions.
Recommendations to the International Community
· The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and all other organizations that fund projects to develop the silk industry, should immediately investigate whether bonded child labor is being used on the projects they fund, and develop a policy and procedure for monitoring for its use in the future.
· The World Bank should implement its policy on child labor, which states that: "The Bank's work on child labor includes: . . . requiring compliance with applicable child labor laws and regulations in specific projects where exploitative child labor is otherwise likely to occur."19 Specifically, the World Bank should conduct a comprehensive review of all of its projects in India to determine whether child labor is in any way involved, directly or indirectly, and make the results public. In its loan agreements, it should routinely require that any violations of bonded or child labor laws would be equivalent of a default on the loan. The Bank should vigorously monitor implementation of this provision. It should also actively seek the input of Indian NGOs and U.N. agencies (including ILO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and UNICEF on how it can target its educational and rural poverty-reduction projects in India to areas and sectors of the economy where child labor is prevalent in order to support alternatives. The next Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for India should include a specific component dealing with child labor containing these measures, and others, to fully implement the Bank's commitments on ending child labor.
· Bodies such as the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.N. agencies, and others that fund projects aimed at reducing child labor should insist that local governments in the areas where their projects operate enforce the child and bonded labor law, and should contribute resources, capacity building, and technical assistance to local governments to adequately enforce those laws.
· The ILO should use its supervisory mechanisms, such as the Committee of Experts, to review the Indian government's compliance with its international obligations, should encourage the government to make efforts to uphold these obligations, and should request the government to provide information on progress achieved in this regard.
· IPEC, in conjunction with its SIMPOC program, should conduct a baseline survey of bonded child labor in India. Data should be disaggregated by sex and by labor sector.
Recommendations to Retailers, Suppliers, and Indian and International Consumers
· Corporations should incorporate a monitoring process for bonded child labor into their quality control procedures and in setting standards for selecting suppliers and products.
· Indian consumers should appeal to their members of the legislative assembly (MLA), district magistrates, and district collectors to demand that vigilance committees be established and strengthened, and should demand that the government of India identify, release, and rehabilitate all bonded laborers (including children) as required under the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976, and the accompanying rehabilitation scheme.
· International consumers should appeal to their own governments to press the Government of India to abide by its own law by administering in good faith the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976, and accompanying procedures for the identification, release, and rehabilitation of bonded laborers.
18 The term "scheduled castes," by which Dalits are also called, refers to a list of socially deprived ("untouchable") castes prepared by the British Government in 1935. The schedule of castes was intended to increase representation of scheduled-caste members in the legislature, in government employment, and in university placement. The term is also used in the constitution and various laws. The term "scheduled tribes" refers to a list of indigenous tribal populations who are entitled to much of the same compensatory treatment as scheduled castes. The term "lower castes" includes those relatively higher in the caste system than Dalits.
19 The World Bank, Core Labor Standards and the World Bank, July 2000.