Bihar ranks third from top in population and third from bottom in literacy rates. The ironical statistics provide an accurate ‘representation’ of a state articulated with stark contrast in the bandwidth of ‘development’. State headlines comprises of the achievement of the Super-30 students defying all odds and the other day we read about the defeat of humanism with the Muzzafarpur shelter home case that defied all odds of heinous crime. It really needs some self-questioning that a state that forms the diaspora of many top intellectuals and bureaucrats, is the place from where almost every day a kid gets rescued from the clutches of traffickers (NCRB 2019).
Bihar derives its name from the Pali word ‘vihāra’ meaning abode; Once the abode of Buddhist monks in contemporary times has transformed into the abode of traffickers. In 2018 Bihar accounted for the most cases of child trafficking in the country with 539 total instances. The situation presently is more grave as the post lockdown period has shown a rising trend of child trafficking incidents in the state. The state is in a vulnerable position as millions of migrant workers have returned home during the lockdown which is bound to have socio-economic consequences, thus at this time of crisis, child traffickers have been very active and are trying to lure children from the poorest of families. A study conducted by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation found that more than half (54%) Of the children rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan in Delhi were from Bihar. Very recently on 9th September a group of 21 minors from Bihar’s Samastipur, all alleged victims of trafficking, were rescued from a bus in Kolkata. Police said the children aged between 12 and 14, were being taken to Howrah to work in bangle factories. Most of the children told the police that they were under the impression that they had been brought to Kolkata for a picnic.
Several NGOs have worked against child labour in Bihar but two have been the real catalyst for change: Freedom Fund in the past and Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation in present. Freedom Fund a London based NGO executed and backed a five year intervention campaign by 25 Indian NGOs in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, invested $15 million in, between 2014 and 2019 to conduct direct, on-the-ground interventions to free workers from debt bondage and other forced labour conditions. Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) In contemporary times has been very impactful in Bihar, they recently launched ‘Mukti Caravan’, a campaign digitally over a webinar, attended by senior officials of the state and members of the legislature, among others. The foundation has roped in 50 youths, who were rescued from child traffickers, for an intensive door-to-door drive in districts, which have been particularly notorious for the menace. Addressing the webinar, KSCF Executive Director (Campaign) Bidhan Chandra Singh said, “The drive will focus on ten districts in the state’s northern and north-eastern parts. Our activists shall be covering 10,000 villages, reaching out to 10 lakh people, with a view to galvanize at least 2,000 young volunteers who would join the cause.”
We always have a ray of hope with organisations such as KSCF, but we fail to give them the due appreciation of it and above all, have the attitude of complacency with a tinge of self-centeredness “so nice it happened, they are working, children are rescued…… but what am I to do and help”. We as individuals and citizens in the awe and comfort of social organisation’s work never ever try to face the discomfort of the reality of a social evil. It’s this discomfort of facing the reality that we justify child labour behind the smokescreen of poverty, destiny, etc. We are always in a bubble that we are an asset to the society. But to be an asset it’s not enough that we just speak about child labour, but it’s requisite to follow the obligations of the society of truth and justice; For ending child labour, for the protection of billion innocent children, for the support of billion exploited children who never felt the affection and innocence of a child, for a better society eventually a better world.
Any fundamental change can happen with an eloquent try, It’s essential for each one of us to just not speak against child labour, but to live by those words because always remember the ignorance of one individual is enough to snatch the most basic gift of life i.e. childhood from a child.