I saw him lying half-awake under a push cart. His tender and fragile face told me that something must be making him sleepless – something must have been bothering him at such a young age when other children of his age don’t have to carry the weight of the world. I was to have a series of such sleepless night when I was haunted by the image of that boy. Here I was lying on a neatly made bed, my hunger satisfied with homemade food and an air conditioner whirring, thinking about that boy. I wondered how many such children are out there in my locality and across the entire nation. His image – poorly clad with the body left to the mercy of the blood sucking insects – contrasted with the eternal bliss I was living in was more disturbing. I was trying hard not to ruminate about the boy; thankfully the chores at the office let me go easy on myself for a while.
I could not erase the image of the boy from my thoughts for days together. Whenever I bumped into kids of the same age I thought about him. For me he represented the society’s poverty and indifference towards the future generation. We are so lost in the maddening crowd and so caught up in the race of life to stand out, pause and ponder.
When we are deeply involved in the thoughts of succession at work place and economic or social development that we let the governments take care of other issues and do not even think for a minute who would address the core issues of poverty, lack of basic civic amenities and even basic education for children? These incidents made me see beyond and think how one could take the responsibility of these issues and work on them rather than fret at the sight of kids who are seen on the streets either begging or getting flogged accused of stealing? They are deprived of their childhood; their dreams crushed under child labour and exploitation as sex workers. Basic education and healthy life are their fundamental rights but who will fight for their cause?
Do you know there are *an estimated 158 million children aged 5-14 engaged in child labour in India which is one in six children in the world is a child labour. Millions of children are engaged in hazardous situations or conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or working with dangerous machinery. They are everywhere but invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, labouring behind the walls of workshops, in plantations hidden from public view.
*Nearly 13 per cent of all children in South Asia are engaged in child labour which equals around 44 million. Of these children, 29 million live in India, where the child labour rate is 12 per cent. Within India itself there are vast divergences between states in the incidence of child labour, ranging from 32 per cent in Gujarat to 3 per cent in Goa and Kerala.
If these kids are the future, who will develop them into strong pillars that supports the very existence of our nation?
With these lingering thoughts I and my friends sat back sharing our concern for some Chai-biscuits. I realized that even they shared similar concerns and ideas on the same issue. Many of the like minded friends offered to help volunteer for this cause and wanted to put in time and effort to bring a change in the lives of such underprivileged kids. but that was not it. This was a temporary solution. What happens when we have transformed our lives growing professionally and personally with a shift from Chai-biscuits to green tea & Cookies like a sophisticated social being? What would happen when this passion and concern just dies out like any other interest in our life due to work and personal qualms?
This is a question which each and every citizen of this country or any nation facing similar development issues should address to create a harmonious and equitable society and develop a sustainable solution for the future.
There are numerous NGO’s coming up that work for the development of such underprivileged section of the society with support of International agencies to mainly provide education and other fundamental rights. For example Paatshala, an NGO involving youth towards buiding a better tomorrow. An well designed model for Private- Public Participation (PPP) would work wonders for growth of any developing nation. May be the first step towards taking up responsibility would be to collaborate with such NGO’s to create a better environment socially and economically and a school of thought for the younger generations to blossom and grow.
(*Data gathered from UNICEF statistics on Child Labour in South Asia)
To know more on Paatshala and latest programs visit: http://www.paatshala.org/