November 14th, the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 0r Chacha Nehru as he is fondly called is celebrated as Children’s Day in India. As a child, celebrating Children’s Day meant distributing chocolates amongst students and teachers. It never once crossed my mind what it meant to children who were less previliged than I was. I was happy because my friends were happy..every kid I knew was safe…so really…I didn’t bother.
Living abroad for the last 6 years has taught me many things. It’s changed my personality and the way I see things. Now that I live in a ‘developed’ country where its citizens are taken care of with utmost sincerity, I started to wonder why my country could not be the same. Why it could not take care of the most vulnerable. Is it because our country was raped over and over again and was robbed of all our wealth…or is it our attitude of turning a blind eye to what’s happening around us?
During my last visit to India, I had been to this restaurant in Hyderabad. A family with 4 kids had come to enjoy a night out at the same restaurant. The family was accompanied by a 13 or14 yr old girl…who’s job was to look after the other 4 kids…one of whom was barely a months old baby. I quickly asked my parents if it was illegal to do so. I wanted to call the cops and let them know what was happening but something stopped me. I was scared. I feared repercussions but even today I curse myself for not doing anything about it. I feel so useless.
I could not take my eyes off the little girl who had to carry the baby around while the family sat and ate to their hearts content. This incident happened when THE ABOLITION OF CHILD LABOUR BILL, 2006 was introduced…when there was NEWS splashed all across media that people employing under-age kids could face imprisonment…and here I see a family least bothered about what could happen to them if caught.
The problem lies within us. Not all of us employ kids…but when we see something like this happening…we tend to ignore and move on because we are scared.
India has the largest number of Child Labour in the world…estimated ranging from 70 million to 114 million. They are forced to do a variety of things…from falling prey to paedophiles…to becoming members of a highly organised begging groups where they are forced to work on streets for upto 16 hrs a day…from domestic servants who are physically and mentally abused…to stone cutters or toiling for hours together for retail giants like GAP.
But how do we stop this from happening. Yes, children are made to work…their precious childhood is robbed but if they are sent to Govt. schools…are the facilities good enough for them to survive. It has been shown many a times that the facilities provided for children at a governement school are pathetic…stale food…no books…no teachers just to name a few. Also will their parents allow them to study when they could make 200 bucks a day? Is there a way out of all this? All the furore about India being the next economic super power…but are the most vulnerable reaping any benefits out of this new found weath. When I visit Hyderabad…I see these huge buildings coming up in every corner…but at the same bend…I see kids begging and seraching for food in garbage disposal tanks.
I am not saying all this should change overnight…or not least in the next 10 years. But what I am saying is that change starts at home…yours and mine. Refuse to accept tea served by a child at your local tea store…refuse to accept your take away food to be delivered by a kid…refuse to accept your street and your apartment complex to be cleaned by a kid…I am sure such small things will be invaluable in brining positive change to the society we live in. Lets not leave everything to the government and the politicians.
Every child deserves a beautiful childhood. You and were lucky enough to get it…so why shoudn’t the rest? Let us try and make this possible in our own little way.