Karnataka Enforces Stringent Measures for Hiring Child Artists in Entertainment Industry

In a decisive move to protect child artists in the entertainment sector, the government of Karnataka has implemented new regulations requiring producers to obtain explicit permission from local authorities before engaging children in artistic productions. This decree is contained within the framework of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, a piece of legislation that has recently come to the forefront of legal discussions due to an uptick in productions involving child actors in films and reality television shows in the state.

The Labour Department, underlining the importance of these young performers’ educational and personal development, has issued a stern directive mandating producers to seek prior consent from the local District Magistrate, also known as the Deputy Commissioner, for employing child artists. The move underscores an imperative to maintain the continuous educational progress for child artists, ensuring that their involvement in the entertainment industry does not come at the cost of missing out on essential school lessons and lectures.

The Labour Commissioner’s office has circulated this directive to influential bodies within the entertainment industry, including the Managing Director of Sree Kanteerava Studios Limited, Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, Karnataka Media Academy, and the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), among others. The communication puts forth clear stipulations concerning the nature and extent of a child’s work as an artist, in accordance with the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Control) Act, 1986, and the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act 2016.

While these laws prohibit employing children below 14 in most occupations, they allow for certain exceptions, such as for young actors, provided such employment does not infringe upon their right to education. In ensuring adherence to these regulations, the acts outline a strict schedule for child work in the entertainment industry, limiting their involvement to no more than five hours in a day and necessitating rest periods of no less than three hours between stints of work.

A critical element of the government’s new enforcement includes a mandatory process wherein producers must obtain permission from the District Magistrate where the filming or performance is taking place, along with having to present a letter of consent from the child’s parents and a list of participating children. The producers are also bound by the undertaking to ensure the mental and physical well-being of the child, which includes providing timely and nutritious meals. Additionally, the laws mandate that provisions for safeguarding a child’s educational pursuits — along with protection from sexual offences and adherence to other relevant laws — must be staunchly followed.

One of the noteworthy components of the directive is the requirement for a portion of the child’s income from the production to be secured for their future. The order specifies that “at least 20% of the total income of the child from the production or programme should be kept in a fixed deposit in the name of the child in a nationalized bank.”

This new regulatory framework has not been met without pushback from industry stakeholders. The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) has raised concerns, with its President, N.M. Suresh, remarking, “We are not against rules and regulations, but some rules are tough to follow, and they should be amended.”

In response, H.N. Gopalakrishna, the Labour Commissioner, delineated the government’s strategy for a phased implementation of the rules. He indicated that before a full enforcement of these rules, there would be a comprehensive effort to educate industry stakeholders through workshops at the district level. Emphasizing the importance of formal education for child artists, he stated, “Full-time acting will ruin their education. Letting them get formal education is our concern.”

With this resolution, the Karnataka government reasserts its commitment to safeguarding the welfare of its youth, even as it nurtures the growth of its vibrant entertainment industry. The measures aim to balance the educational rights and physical well-being of child artists with the commercial interests of the entertainment sector, underlining a cautious yet forward-looking approach to a complex issue.

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