By Anwesha Dhar:
How many times have you walked into your neighbourhood tea shack and been served by ‘Chotu’? How many times have you visited a relatives place and seen trembling, little hands carry a tray full of cups to you, and again retreat to the kitchen to wash it? That the little tea stall boy’s name is not ‘Chotu’ and that those little hands ought to hold a pen, not a tray, does not even cross our minds for once. Such is the preoccupation we have with our own lives, and such is the extent of the issue of child labour in our country that it feels normal. This normalisation of dangerous issues like child labour is where the main impediment of countering it lies.
I remember having a heated argument with my own grandmother a few days back, when she had mentioned her desire of employing a fourteen year old as a domestic help. “But she has to feed her family, she has no other choice!” was her argument. It is true that she doesn’t have a choice, but we as a society do. We have the choice to ensure that labour is not extorted from a little girl when she should ideally be learning and playing. Of course, she has a responsibility towards her family but the responsibility should be realised at a certain age.
As per statistics, the magnitude of child labour in India is estimated to be 10 million and yet, it remains an oft ignored subject. In the last few decades, attempts have been made to actively counter this burning issue. One such campaign called #OpenYourEyes organised by Child Rights and You (CRY) brings together youth, child rights practitioners, eminent photographers, children and public for a two month long campaign to map the impact that child labour legislation and programmes have had and subsequently, to recommend changes. The many aspects of the campaign includes bringing together experts to discuss issues and suggest changes, children clicking photographs to depict how the Child Labour Law has affected their lives, professional photographers depicting the issue through images. A trademark feature of the campaign is opening a hotline for the public where they can call and talk about the measures they would have taken had they been the Prime Minister. The number is 011- 66032837, and registered opinions are to be shared with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
“Today, child labour has become a blind spot for many of us- we rarely stop and think about why a child is working in a tea shop or a traffic signal when he should be in school, getting an education and a real childhood. It is therefore time to #OpenYourEyes to the reality of child labour and pledge to act against it so every child in our country goes to school, not work.” says Yogita Verma Saighal, Director, Child Rights and You (CRY)
The campaign wishes to amass support from all sections of the society, especially the youth, in order to launch a successful crusade against child labour. It wishes to incite motivation in people through likes of Ujjawal Chauhan, a student of IIT Kharagpur, who embarked on a journey late in May and plans to cycle through 4 states, from Kolkata to Mumbai to sensitize the public. It’s time we embark on a journey to end it as well. Child labour needs to perish, or the inherent goodness of humanity will.