The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has drafted new guidelines to protect child artistes in the showbiz industry. One of the major highlights of the draft guidelines is that no showbiz minor should work for more than 27 consecutive days in a year and over six hours in a day. The draft ‘Regulatory Guidelines for Child Participation in the Entertainment Industry’ will cover films, OTT, TV, reality shows and other fields where child artistes are involved.
‘Need to address working hours’
Priyank Kanoongo, Chairperson, NCPCR, says that they have received many complaints for TV serials and OTT platforms. He asks, “We have received a lot of complaints regarding portrayal of kids, but who will complain about the working hours of these kids? We need to address working hours and working conditions of showbiz minors. Hence, we need strict implementation of these guidelines.”
Apart from Priyank Kanoongo, director Soumendra Padhi and other experts from the industry are also part of this committee. One of the points in the guidelines also mentions that for kids to work in the entertainment sector, they will require producers to obtain permission from the District Magistrate. This is being suggested to ensure a safe environment on sets for child artistes.
Findings indicate that unfortunately there are also parents who own the earnings of their children and rather than acting in the best interest of children, they modify kids’ schedules to fit shooting schedules. It has often been noticed that parents quit their jobs to manage their kids’ careers full time. The committee will also have meetings with heads of production houses of all major mediums and studio heads. The draft guidelines of NCPCR has come up with a list of dos and don’ts for children in showbiz. Till July 31, these guidelines are out for public feedback.
‘Draft guidelines aim to protect showbiz minors from their parents and producers’
Vani Tripathi Tikoo who was among the members who drafted these guidelines says that the main objective of framing the guidelines is that child artistes are treated as kids. Vani says that working conditions on sets are often not children-friendly. She says, “We need to take immediate steps about the conditions in which child actors are working on sets. The new rules in the draft guideline include things like having a tutor, child counsellor during shooting, limited work hours and regular breaks among other requirements.
Vani, who has also worked in several films and TV serials, has witnessed that children work till late hours and rarely get free time. She points out that it is the need of the hour to take a look at how showbiz minors are working. She says, “The aim of the draft guidelines is to protect child artistes from exploitation by not just producers but parents as well. These guidelines have been drafted to catch up with the ever-increasing entertainment formats as we have more child artistes working in all the mediums. Besides, the guidelines are not just for guidance but we have included provision for punishment.”
‘Due to telecast issues eight hours turn into 12 hours’
Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai actress Ashnoor Kaur’s (now 18) mother Avneet Kaur says, “It has been said that the working hours are eight hours, but due to telecast issues, they become 12 hours, so there should be a fix on the number of hours. Ashnoor was very young, around five years when she did Jhansi Ki Rani, so there were no issues. But when she did Patiala Babes, she had her board exams and it used to get tough when we used to get home around 11pm. She would insist that she had to finish her chapters and would sleep for around four hours.
That was too less for a child. She has been a very bright student, so she scored well but I feel that there should be a rule on the working hours.” She adds, “I would also like to share how the working environment is safe for children but they should be taught to work within their boundaries and understand what’s good and bad for them. As parents we do have to take permission from Cine And TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA) and become members so that our child can act in shows. They also have a list of regulations for child actors.”
‘It would be helpful if makers have a tutor on the set’
The new guidelines in India also mention that child artistes should be provided private tutors if they skip school. In foreign countries, this is an established norm. For instance, during the shoot of Stranger Things – as the cast majorly comprised kids – tutors were available for them so they could take lessons. Kanoongo adds, “The guidelines have incorporated the amendments in child labour laws, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It has been over ten years since these guidelines were last issued in 2011.”
Aakriti, who is 12-years-old now, had acted in Kullfi Kumarr Bajewala when she was eight. Her mother Dimple Sharma says, “Aakriti was in Class II when she acted in the TV show. We did not face many issues but we had to hire a tutor as she used to attend school just once or twice a week. In such cases, when the child is dividing time between acting and school, it would be nice if the makers have a tutor on the set, too. It could be a rule now, Kullfi… makers used to help us with such things that are important for studies. Otherwise, there is no pressure on the child and the working environment is good, my daughter is quite smart, so she used to catch up on studies very well.”
Major highlights from the guidelines (working hours, conditions, wages, education)
At least one parent or legal guardian or a known person shall be present at all times if the child is above the age of six years. No child should be allowed to travel without their parent.
- Every person involved in the production who may be in contact with children shall submit a medical fitness certificate and certificate for not carrying obvious contagious disease before shooting with children and police verification of such staff shall be done.
- A child shall only participate in one shift per day, with a break after every three hours [Section 7 of Child and Adolescent Labour Act, 1986]. The period of work of a child shall be so arranged that inclusive of his interval for rest, it shall not be more than six hours, including the time spent in waiting for work on any day [Section 7 of Child and Adolescent Labour Act, 1986]. No child shall be made to work overtime or between 7pm and 8am. [Section 7 of Child and Adolescent Labour Act, 1986].
- The minimum number of working days or instructional hours in an academic year should be maintained as provided in the Schedule under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
- The participation of children in recorded/live entertainment programmes may be done preferably on holidays so that the child does not miss school.