Fun and frolic is enjoyed by thousands of children in India. However, there are millions of kids in the same country who are unaware and deprived of it. They probably go to bed tired and hungry as usual, not knowing when they will get their next meal.
The reality of ‘two India’ is nowhere more heartbreaking than in the state of this underprivileged majority which forms the part of toiling masses, destitute, deprived and disadvantaged children.
Children are a ‘generation of hope’. But how can we have any hope when facts tell us a different tale. India has the largest number of child laborers in the world i.e. around 17 million out of total 400 million as revealed by Child rights and You (CRY).
More than 100 million children worldwide do not go to school. In India, around 13.5 million children are out of schools. Our children are being denied right to educate, social security, health, food security and the right to life. Accordingly this worst deprivation compels them to work as labourers in fields and factories.
Child labour is the crime against humanity and society. It is a brutal violation of human rights. It kills their growing childhood before it blooms. Children due to socio-economic compulsions have to do hard long hours of life threatening works in pathetic and inhuman conditions, which thwarts their world of imagination and creativity by thrusting them in to mechanized way of life and lead them susceptible to dangerous and life snatching diseases like asthma, TB, HIV etc.
Some maimed or crippled, lose their eyes or get burned while working with hard machinery in plantation industries, fireworks, deep mines, garbage dumps, carpet industries etc. It stunts their physical and mental growth. Children are made vulnerable to abuses as well as persistent beating on trivial mistakes.
Many of us see these emaciated children doing hazardous work with their tender hands at this delicate age which must hold toys to play. But those starving figures work sincerely at cheap wages and bear their employer’s torture. They serve food at dhabas and restaurants with hunger pangs in their own bellies. They have some wishes and whims but they have to bear the brunt of poverty, which is the seed bed of it.
We watch their heartening conditions in our real life; we get trembled to see their plight and feel a sense of responsibility, a few moments of guilt for not helping them and a few seconds of determination that one day we will. But after 30 short seconds our flash of consciousness change as the change of another ad or channel which take our mind distant from the realities.
Children are being punished not for any fault of theirs but for that of their elders. Their parents consider it prudent to send their non school going children to work and earn who themselves sit idle and demand extra income to satisfy their addictions. A staggering proportion of children pulled out of schools because of accessibility, social discrimination in schools, repulsive teaching methods in order to supplement families’ income.
Some parents also offer their children to work for an employer in lieu of a loan and debt. It is a matter of shame that most of child workers are employed by enlightened and educated sections.
We can eradicate child labour gradually. Our government has passed various and programmes on paper for the amelioration of their plight. However constitutional provisions and legislations alone cannot combat the menace unless supplemented by comprehensive enforcement of socio-economic programmes and educational upliftment and total change in the social psyche and attitude.
It is essential to involve various voluntary organisations, and the employers themselves who depend to a large extent on the child labour force. There should be a single department or ministry in place of existing multiplicity of authority especially for children. A joint committee of Parliament can also be set up to constantly view the programmes and policies regarding child labour. Atrocities both physical and mental should be punished. And the debts of parents should not be visited on the heads of children.
The west may solve its conscience by banning carpet and match sticks because of being imported from India because of tender hands that have suffered in making them. In India, mitigation is all one can hope for but here the efforts must be sincere and steady. We can easily solve this problem by generation of public opinion, compulsory and free as well as employment oriented education, proper enforcement of laws and whole hearted commitment by the government and societal law.
Most important method which can solve the dwindling future of our generation next is the participation of children to fight for themselves- school children must join various NGO’s to work for the welfare of their brothers and sisters. Various rallies must be organised and awareness should be spread among the poor families and to induce their parents to curb it.
Funds and various necessities should be allocated to help them. Efforts should be made to remove the parental cause – poverty by providing employment and some ransom amount to poor families.
In a nutshell, we can do a lot in the opposite direction, with our tangible action to completely eradicate it. It is the responsibility of every individual not to ignore problems but contribute to action towards its reform. Everyone must take the commitment for positive action to transform the lives of our next generation. We indeed need to give a safe and sound future to our posterity.