The numbers on child labor in India are horrific. There are also existing laws on the book, but like all such things here, implementation is pathetic.
It's clear that child labor is a manifestation of extreme poverty (and, I'm sure, has been common throughout human history until modern times). It's eradication is, therefore, tied to efforts to eliminate abject poverty, and thus involve tackling many complex realities.
This is not to say that one can just ignore the problem and say, "oh well, it'll take care of itself with 'progress.'" Creating a culture of intolerance is important -- and legislative efforts are part of that. The only problem is that legislative efforts rarely work in India. The respect for the rule of law is partial at best. Unless there is a strong will for enforcement, this law will be just another tool for lower policemen and inspectors to harass employers (and collect their hafta, bribe), and a showcase for political rhetoric for the ruling party. The children will not benefit.
And say it is enforced -- I'm not clear what the exact penalties are. Fines? Too lenient. Imprisonment? Let's not even talk about bringing the courts into this -- what will the children freed up do? One would like to think that they'd return to a "normal childhood." But without proper incentives, impoverished parents will find another way to utilize their children as sources of income. Like in so many other things, economics matters and ignoring it often brings one's efforts to nought.
As it is the streets of urban India are filled with legions of children who swarm the traffic at every stoplight, tapping on the window, making one squirm, as -- for a fraction of a second that our dulled consciences let their guard down -- the horror of the reality on the other side invades our clean aircondtioned cocoons.
Yes, Cry. CRY. Want to help? Go visit Child Relief and You.