Forced labour is already a reality for an estimated 43 lakh children in the country. The amendments that the government proposes to the child labour law could make it worse. The bill is listed in the ongoing winter session of Parliament.
If the proposed changes go through, children under 14 will still not be allowed to work in hazardous occupations but the word hazardous will be diluted.
The term is being redefined to exclude industries like zari (garment industry), bangle, carpet-making, brick kilns and footwear which were earlier in this category.
That's a reduction of prohibited occupations from over 80 to just three broad categories (limited to what's listed under the Factories Act of 1948, mines, inflammable substances and explosives).
The new law will allow also children less than 14 years old to work in family enterprises and the entertainment industry so long as it does not interfere with their school.
Statistics compiled by the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan - that rescues children with the help of government officials - over a period of five years, present a dismal picture.
Of the 5,254 children rescued, nearly 60 per cent were under 14 years and nearly one-fourth of these were working in family-run enterprises. Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told NDTV.
"We have very serious concerns about two things... It is allowed up to any age in the proposed amendment. And, 'family' definition is very long list...When we see the list (of rescued children), more than 80 per cent were freed from hazardous occupations and now they are not listed as hazardous. In this situation, we will not be able to free most of these children if the new amendment is passed."
"We have listed the bill for this session but we are willing to look at suggestions from all quarters before passing it," said Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya.
Get Breaking news, live coverage, and Latest News from India and around the world on NDTV.com. Catch all the Live TV action on NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for latest news and live news updates.