Reach Out by Riya Pahuja

 

REACH OUT
~By Riya Pahuja

I. UNDERPRIVILEGED FAMILIES

I reached out to 8 plus underprivileged families.To all the families I have talked to, I realized that
they have learnt so much from their experiences. They have faced so much and their love for
their children do not allow them to have their children faced the same. They just want their
children to be successful and do something as an answer to all those who had disrespected
them. They were such great listeners. I was so shocked (and happy) that they know the value of
Education. To my surprise they said,”Padhenge tabhi to kuch kuch karenge, hamari tarah to
nahi rahenge.” They were not fully aware of government schemes.
I would like to mention some of these people:
1) Chameli (Narnaul, Mahendragarh): We call her Mai Ji. She is around 70 years old. She
has been working as a maid at my aunt’s place for 30 years (and many places more)
and is still working. She has three great-grandchildren (khushi-6th class, Himanshi-4th
and Devin-3rd).They all go to a government school. She is a very very strong lady. She
believes so much in education. She made a lot of efforts to make her grandson (the
father of these three children) complete his graduation. While she works at home, the
three children study from my aunt and the lady is always keen to ask if the children are
studying well and have completed their homework. She also works at their school as a
servant and she often asks their teachers about the same. She knows all about their
studies, their exams, the books they are studying from and the homework they get
although she herself is not educated. She got married at the age of 15 (she was not sure
of the age). While handling all their education and working at the school, she has got
some knowledge and has learnt to some extent. She strongly said that a child shouldn’t
work in any circumstances. They should be educated. She is well aware that child labour
is illlegal. I was so moved after talking to her. She filled me with a special energy and
confidence.

2) Shyamawati (Delhi): She has been working as a servant at a hospital in Delhi. She has
studied till class 6th. Her family forced her to drop the school because they couldn’t
afford it and her family believed that education would be a waste. She then got married
in Palwal. She was a brilliant student at school. She insisted a lot at that time that she
wanted to study. Her husband was addicted to alcohol and didn’t earn money. She had
to work to earn a livelihood. Since then she has been working. She has 3 children. She
has a deep regret of not completing the school. She wanted to send her children to
school. For that she did a lot of hard work. She did night shifts. She also tried to access
one of the government schemes at that time but for that she needed 1,000 rupees so
she couldn’t access it (she forgot the name of the scheme). Her children are going to a
govt. School. She tried a lot if she could complete her 10th from an open board. She
even contacted someone and started to study 10th but she left in between due to her job
and household responsibilities. She wasn’t able to focus on studies. She is still aspiring
to complete her 10th as she believes that she then can earn more as 10th pass gets
better opportunities. She truly believes in Education. She also said that no child should
work but everyone should study and they can earn more then.
3) Manoj Kumar (Gurgaon): He is a driver. He was not interested in studies. At the age of
17 he lost his father. He then left the school and started working at his father’s shop as a
latheman. He took the responsibility of his whole family consisting of his 2 younger
brothers (who were in school) and sisters (their marriage responsibility). He wanted his
brothers to complete their education. After some years his shop got closed. He then
started working as a driver and is still working. He has seen a lot of hardships. He has
two daughters who are in college (University of Delhi). He has done different jobs day
and night so that his daughters can study and take loans also for their Education. He
believes in her daughters that they will do a great job and bring happiness in their life.
With pride I would like to say that he is my father.

4) Ranjit (Delhi): He is 28 years old. He has been working as a housekeeper at the brothels
on G.B Road (Delhi) for 10-12 years. He is from Bihar. Initially, he worked at a tea stall in
the same area. He started working at the age of 13-14. He didn’t like to study. Now, he
has one girl child who is 6 years old. She goes to school. He said that he has faced a lot
and many people disrespected him and he does not want his daughter to face the same.
After listening that her daughter is studying I felt very happy. He wanted her daughter to

do something that his father would be proud of. He said,” padhana hai, kuch banana
hai.” I felt so hopeful after listening to this line.
5) Kunal (Delhi)- He is 19 years old. He is my best friend. He is the one who helped me to
contact Ranjit (mentioned above). His mother is a sex worker at G.B. Road. His father is
not supportive of his education and doesn’t help them financially. Still then his mother
supports him in education (I can not mention his mother’s name due to privacy issues).
He is in 12th class NIOS. I was very touched when I came to know that her mother,
despite her environment, is so supportive of Education and against the child labour.
Kunal believes that when a child falls into work early, his/her life gets destroyed.His
mother wants Kunal to be successful and earns a lot of money so as to get back her
respect and to prove to all the people. I also talked to Kunal’s friends and cousins.

6) Pushpa (Gurgaon)- She has been working as a maid in my locality. She started working
at the age of 16. She has attended the school till class 6th. She is strictly against the
child Labour and is well aware of it. I was very happy and felt positive when I came to
know that her son is pursuing BCOM and her daughter is in class 10th. She said that she
works so that they can study.

7) Pramod Kumar (Gurgaon): He works as a painter. He is from Lucknow. He is not
educated. He started working from the age of 16-17 as a painter. He got married at 21.
He has 2 children. His children go to a private school in Lucknow and earlier they were in
Aryan Public school in Gurgaon (and it’s a good school). I was so surprised after
listening that they are in private school. He loves his children very much. He also
mentioned that they are very naughty and they do not study. But he wants them to study
and get a decent job in future. He wants their life to be certain and smooth.

II. Potential Employers:

I reached out to 4-5 employers. While talking to them I realized that many of them know
that it is illegal to employ a child. But they have different points to justify it. I would like to
mention few of the employers I reached out to:

1) Yakub / Kudus (Gurgaon): He is 48 years old. He has been working since he was 14. At
the age of 14, he initially worked under an electrician as a helper. After 3 years, he left
that job and set up his own stall of breakfast. Now he earns through a tea stall.
When I asked him if employs a child at his stall, he said that he doesn’t have much work
to hire someone. When I ask him if he has then will he hire a child? He said,” Agar ek
bacha yha jhoothe cup dhone ko tayar hai to beta kuch to majboori hogi na paise ki. Do
paise kama lega yaha kaam karke”.
He is ready to employ a child. I tried a lot to make him understand that if a child would
study, instead of working, then he/she could earn more in future and could help his/her
family and if a child works at this age then they would be stuck in the vicious circle of
poverty and would never be out. He understood to some extent but he was adamant. He
said he just wanted to help a child through giving them work. I also told him that they
could seek help through the government schemes but he doesn’t believe in the
government. Although, he knows that this is illegal and can be caught up also. He said
that if a child himself is willing to work so let them work. I tried a lot but he was not ready
to listen more. He didn’t want to change his mind.

2) Dharmendra (Kalu), Gurgaon: He is 44 years old. When he was 3 years old, his father
died. His aunt (chachi) and grandmother abused him and his mother. So at the age of—,
he left his studies and started working at a truck repairing shop under a mechanic. Now,
he has one son who studies in a private english medium school. He works at his
brother’s Motor Repairing shop.
When I asked him if he employs children at his shop, he answered that some children
(14 or above) come at his shop to get training (paid) and learn work for 1-2 years and
then leave. I told that this comes under child labour that is illegal. After this training they
will work. He said that this is not wrong if they get to learn the work. They can work and
help his family. If they are coming to work, that means they need money. I told him that
at this age they can study and then earn. Education will help them earn more compared
to training. Then he argues that maybe their families couldn’t afford. I told him that there

are several government schemes that they can access and can study well. He
understood my points to some extent. He patiently listens to me. Our conversation lasts
for hours. I also informed him how traffickers befool the children and how children are
treated then. He was quite informed. I also informed him to complain when they came
across the same. At last he understood not to employ children even for training. I will
follow up on call after some days.

3) Raju (Delhi): He is around 45 years old. He has been earning through a tea stall (his own
stall) for more than 25 years. He believes in education. Even his own children, 22-25
years old, are educated and currently working. But he said,” Agar ek bacha nhi padh rha
to maa baap kya kre, pareshan hoke kaam pe hi bhejega na. Do chaar kaam seekh
lega, kuch kama lega.”
When I asked him if he employs a child at his stall. He said,” pehle karte the par bahut
jhanjhat hota tha, police aa jati thi fr case ho jate the to ab nahi krte.” I was so happy
after listening to this that at least he is not employing a child.
4) Golu (Delhi)- Golu is Kunal’s real brother (Kunal-mentioned above). He left his studies at
the age of 14 because he wasn’t interested in it. He started working at a hardware shop
as a helper and then after 3 years he opened his own small shop of cigarettes and
tobacco. He doesn’t regret leaving his studies. He is so desperate to earn money. He
doesn’t believe in Education and is not against child labour. He knows that it is illegal but
he is not aware of the value of education and why a child shouldn’t work. He believes
that everyone should earn money and help their family.I ask him if he employs children
at his shop. He said he doesn’t employ because he thinks that a child can’t handle work
and also, he doesn’t trust anyone. Secondly, in his area many shops were caught for the
same.
I told him that if he had studied then he could earn more. Similarly, if a child will study
then he can earn more and if a child earns in childhood then they will continue to earn a
small amount and can not get out of poverty. He got my point and understood to some
extent. Then I told him some examples of children trafficked and what they had faced
and how their childhood got ruined. I showed him the glimpses of Price of Free. I asked
him to imagine his younger brother (Nitin,to whom he loved very much). He was very
stunned at this point. He was aware of this treatment but has never felt connected to it.

I have decided to get back to him again after sometime. I have also asked Kunal to instill
the importance of education in him.

III. Privileged Consumers:
I reached out to 15+consumers. I was so happy while talking to this group of people. While
talking to them I realized that they are so receptive to different views.They were listening to me
so patiently and were interested also. They were ready to learn and act. I realized that they
were aware of the laws to some extent and are sensitized to the issue too but they just didn’t
know what to do when they came across the same. I also make them learn the helpline
numbers that they can call.
I am so happy to meet such lovely and understanding people who are ready to stand and act to
make this place better, where a child is free to be a child.
I Pledge to continue to reach out to as many people as possible and work towards achieving the
goal of #EndChildLabour2025.

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