Sometime or the other, we all have been culprits, having made use of the services of a child for work. Remember the days your maid couldn’t come home to work and sent her 12/14 year old daughter instead? What did you do? Did you send her back? Seven out of ten, you would have allowed her to work. After all, the sink was filled with dirty dishes, the house was dusty and guests were expected that evening!
What harm would one day of work do? You may have asked yourself and that was it.
Some time back, a TV actor was charged for ill treating her 10 year old maid. It was bad enough that she had employed a little girl to work for her at home. That she abused her physically and insensitively was what made the whole issue dreadful and intolerable. Elsewhere, one time actress, singer and ex wife of director Shekhar Kapur, Suchitra Krishnamurthy was accused of employing a girl to work in her house. It’s not that only celebrities are doing what they are best at – violating rules. We too, the common people are guilty of not discouraging child labour. Every time we watch boys wipe our tables in small time hotels or we purchase products knowing fully well that they have been made with the nimble hands of a child, we are indirectly promoting child labour. Carpet looms, firecracker factories, embroidery units and glass factories are only some of the other examples of child labour. In a country where child labour is prohibited, we still continue to have about 60 million child labourers with only some thousands being detected by the law. What a sham!
The Maharashtra government had some time back sent a show cause notice to the producers of serials that hired child artistes. But tell me, how effective has this notice turned out to be? Maybe, a few serials like ‘Balika Badhu’ and ‘Chhota Packet Bada Dhamaka’ kind of programmes will we stopped from being telecast but, will it serve any solid purpose? Highly ambitious parents continue to make their children act in serials to get celebrity status and also bring home some fat cash! Do the children enjoy working? Not all children do. Other children who work in less comfortable conditions like in factories have to slog for hours without rest. They can be rescued but unless the children are rehabilitated elsewhere, they are bound to go back to working again. After all, they need to survive and feed their families and themselves.
The problem lies in the inefficient implementation of the Child Labour Act keeping in mind the socio-economic setup of these little children. Their health and education requirements need to be considered too. Most importantly, the issues of poverty, migration and lack of an efficient education policy must be worked out. We still have child prostitutes who start out as early as the age of 5. They are pushed into a world they know nothing about and are exploited terribly. Just imagine! A five year old child made to work it out for money with strangers old enough to be her father or grandfather. Sickening isn’t it? What about their dreams to study, to live a life away from physical and mental abuse?
NGOs are trying their best to rescue child labourers. There have been many instances when children have been rescued and also rehabilitated. But, until the government and the rest of the fortunate public (like us) change our mindset and take an initiative to do something, however little, in tiny ways, millions of child labourers will continue to lead lives bereft of self respect, something which every human being including children deserve to possess.