No more pain for child stars: Entertainment industry gets a hit after government moves to ban child labour

The government's approval to a complete ban on child labour involving minors aged below 14 years may sound the death knell for child artistes in the entertainment industry.

The proposed amendment to the anti-child labour law passed by the Union Cabinet on Tuesday leaves little scope for interpretation as it prohibits all children aged below 14 from working in 'any occupation or process'.

Violation could attract a maximum punishment of three years and fine of up to `50,000. No exception has been made for child actors in television shows and films.

Darsheel Safary of Taarey Zameen  on reality show Jhalak Dikhla Jaa

Darsheel Safary of Taarey Zameen on reality show Jhalak Dikhla Jaa

'The definition is quite clear. Children cannot work for money/salary/daily wages either during or after school hours.

There can't be any kind of employer-employee arrangement in this context,' a senior labour ministry official said. Although the government has provided an exemption clause to the definition, it states nothing about child actors.

The proposal

The clause only allows children to help after schools hours, do home-based work, help in forest gathering and attend a technical institute during vacation for the purpose of learning. In India, a number of television serials have ridden the TRP wave because of their child actors.

For example, the instant popularity of Balika Vadhu, a show based on child marriage, on Colors channel can be attributed to its talented former cast members Avika Gor and Avinash Mukherjee.

The proposed amendments to the anti-child labour law could severely affect a number of shows currently on air (see box) such as Parvarrish - Kuchh Khattee Kuchh Meethi on Sony and Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa on Colors.

Children working in television and Rs 25,000 or more per day.

Rubina Khan

The remuneration is mainly based on the nature of work and the time devoted by the child to the show. The proposal has, predictably, left the entertainment industry jittery.

'We have a number of stories which have to be told through a child. The government can enforce strict rules for the benefit of the child artistes, but a complete ban will not serve any purpose.

Such a move will also take away a valid platform for gifted children,' said Purnendu Shekhar, director of Balika Vadhu.

According to Shantha Sinha, chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), children will still be able to participate in talent-hunt or reality shows, but only as long as they are not paid for it.

'Participation in reality shows and talent-hunt shows is a matter of violation of child rights and not child labour.

NCPCR has brought out guidelines for participation in such shows, which ensure that the child is not exploited,' she said.

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