The Fruits of Labour…?
ये रास्ते आसान नहीं।
कई लोगों ने मंज़िलें तैय की,
पर होंसले कहीं टूट गए।
शिक्षा का था देखा सपना
पर कलम की जगह थमा दी ज़िम्मेदारी के बोझ।
देखे थे अपने लिए कई सपने
और शायद आज भी देखते हैं,
पर डरते हैं की कहीं नींद खुल ना जाये,
और वोह फिर से वही ख्वाब ना देख पाएं।
Its never been easy for families with financial struggles to make their dreams come true. My interviews with workers in my community about their access to education did not tell me anything new that I was not aware of and that was in itself disheartening. Circumstances force people to make decisions that might not be in their best interests. My conversation with a vegetable vendor let me know exactly this. A young girl aged 12 years was forced to help her mother with selling vegetables on cart when her father became bed ridden. Nine years later, she tells me how her dreams of studying shattered when she had to leave school in 7th grade. She is aware that education was her only salvation to better opportunities in life, not only for herself but her family as well. Though she now has started pursuing education from open schooling, the time lost then, she says, is hard to make up for. Upon asking her about her awareness of government schemes available for the disadvantaged, I get a negative response; she is not aware of any but she does not feel too optimistic about them. She says its hard benefit from them in the long run.
Similar responses were received from other workers, who had to leave school at a young age either because their family circumstances did not support their education or they did not have the required financial resources to do so. So they took to odd jobs like decorating bangles at home and selling them, or selling fruits and vegetables or ironing clothes for people living in large localities. Surprisingly, none of them were aware of the government schemes available for the poor. This made me realize how different things can be on paper and in reality. The government creates schemes for the poor but ends up lacking in making them aware of these benefits.
क्या तुमने सोचा था की ऐसा भी होगा ?
के नन्हे ज़िन्दगियों की कदर में शायद कहीं कमी रह जाएगी।
बेहतर देश का ख्वाब देखते-देखते कहीं असलियत को ही भूल जायेंगे।
हाँ शायद तुमने सोचा था की ऐसा ही होगा
की लोगों के नज़रिये बदलना आसान नहीं।
तुम कहना तोह चाहते होगे बहुत कुछ।
सबके खामोशियों पे सवाल उठाना चाहते होगे,
एक ही बार में सबके नज़रिये बदल देना चाहते होगे
पर वो दुनिया ही क्या जिसमें रेह कर लड़ने का जज़्बा ना हो
और उमीदों की किरण को हासिल करने की कोशिश में जुटे रहें।
My conversations with those around me about their awareness of child labor and trafficking made me realize something; not everyone feels strongly about certain issues like you may do and that’s what is challenging. I interviewed those close to me about this issue and what I got to know was that none of them was specifically aware of any laws in place for child labor in India but they did know that making a child below a certain age work, especially in hazardous occupations is a crime. When asked about which industries did they think child labor was mostly employed in, I was surprised that they knew a lot of such places, the most common responses being the firecracker industry, hospitality industry (hotels), dhabas, flower industry, mining, construction sites, bangle industry, mica extraction, agarbatti, and beedi making industries. They are also aware of the fact that children are especially employed in both large-scale & small-scale industries so that the labor is cost-effective and the employer doesn’t have to pay them much.
When I asked them further about whether they believe that they consume products that employed child-labor, one respondent narrated that she was definitely sure that most of the products she used on a day-to-day basis employed children but that she had no other choice but to buy them. It was disheartening, honestly, to hear that. One can always do something about it but I somehow feel that we choose not to. It is not easy to suddenly forgo everything, but we can always work our way around and avoid using such products.
The next question I posed, which is a dilemma to many others, including me was about whether they tried to do something when they saw children begging. The most common responses were giving them money or giving them food. An explanation to a response “I do nothing” I received was “Frankly speaking, I’ve never tried to do anything because even if we want to give them something, we would be encouraging them to beg more. Even if you plan to put them in school, they’ll run away the next day.” To her, helping them in any way by discouraging begging is of no use because for them this is their livelihood.
Earlier, I had similar opinions and did not think it was right to meddle in their affairs but after getting acquainted with Kailash Stayarthi’s virtual volunteer program, I realized that adopting such an attitude would only perpetuate children to beg because they believe that doing this or working at other odd jobs, at the cost of their childhood and education, is the only salvation to their families plight. Even if we personally cannot do anything for them, we can always contact ‘Child helpline number 1098’ or the ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’ organization to help these children out.
Though incidences of employing children as domestic help have reduced, yet there was a respondent who said that earlier she had seen such children working in a few houses and upon my questioning her further as to whether she confronted them about it, she denied saying that at least this was giving them a livelihood and that, it is better than begging. “If these children are not employed, they may take to theft and begging.”
I’ll leave you with food for thought; my intention for writing my experience during this interview or sharing these responses is not for people to think that I am promoting this kind of thinking. With people close to me believing that child labor is fine as long as they are not working in hazardous occupations or that there is nothing that can be done or that this is their life and their livelihood, I have internally taken a strive to first make people around me aware that child labor is NOT OKAY and that if they ever come across something like this, it is their duty to report it.
I believe that each one of us can make a tiny contribution to reducing and hopefully, eradicating child labor.