This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by IndiaSpend. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

It Took The Loud Bang Of A Nobel Prize To Open Our Ears To The Cries Of 60 Million Child Slaves

More from IndiaSpend

By IndiaSpend:

More than 80,000 Indian children have been freed from various forms of slavery and labour and reintegrated into Indian society, thanks to the efforts of Kailash Satyarthi, 60, the electrical engineer who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Yet, what he has achieved is a proverbial drop in the ocean.


Admirable as Satyarthi’s efforts, and those of his organisation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), or Save Childhood Movement, have been, the prize is a reminder of a situation that Indians prefer to ignore: the existence of about 60 million child slaves in India, the highest number in any country.

Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 along with Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

Satyarthi, who started BBA in 1983, became the fifth Indian to win a Nobel Prize, following Amartya Sen (1998, Economics), Mother Teresa (Peace), C V Raman (Physics) and Rabindranath Tagore (Literature).

In this interview to the BBC in February, Satyarthi laid the blame for India’s legions of child slaves at the doorstep of the emerging middle class.

“This is the most ironical part of India’s growth. The middle classes are demanding cheap, docile labour,” he said. “The cheapest and most vulnerable workforce is children — girls in particular. So the demand for cheap labour is contributing to trafficking of children from remote parts of India to big cities.”

Satyarthi, in a column written in 2011, had argued that the exploitation of children was generating Rs 1.2 lakh crore ($20 billion) in unaccounted money for Indian employers:

“All the work that is done by child labourers and the income thus generated goes unaccounted for. Studies show that 60 million children work for approximately 200 days a year at an average cost of Rs 15 per child per day. This amounts to Rs 18,000 crore in one year. Now, these 60 million child labourers, when substituted with 60 million adult labourers, would earn Rs 1.38 trillion at a minimal rate of an average floor wage of Rs 115 per day per labourer for 200 days. This difference in the total earnings works out to Rs 1.2 trillion. This straight profit of Rs 1.2 trillion is a significant loss to the economy. The employer(s) should have legally and ideally paid this sum to the worker(s), but the employer(s) instead choose to employ docile, underpaid and overworked child labourers.”


The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity; work that is harmful to physical and mental development.

Child labour is a pernicious problem in India. Children work in a variety of industries, from washing plates in roadside eateries to working—and dying—early in unregulated factories.

IndiaSpend in an earlier report, looked at child labour statistics across states in India and the hazardous industries that employ children. The incidence of child labour has dropped significantly in India, but it continues to be the highest in the world.

Data (from the National Sample Survey Organisation for 2009-2010) now puts the number of working children at 4.9 million, a 60% reduction since 2001; the figure is considered a major underestimate since millions of children are not recorded in official surveys and work in industries not regarded as hazardous, which is not illegal.

Indian laws only say that those below 14 years of age cannot be employed in “hazardous” industries. A bill, the Child and Adolescent Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Bill, prohibiting the employment of children below 14 altogether, was introduced in Parliament in 2012, but has not yet been passed.

The major occupations involving child labour are pan, bidi and cigarettes (21%), construction (17%), and spinning & weaving (11%), which qualify as hazardous processes/occupations. Domestic workers constitute 15% of the total child workers.

Several accounts intermittently spotlight the horrors of child labour. One report, released earlier this year, was one of the largest ever investigations into child slavery in India’s handmade-carpet sector. It probed 172 companies, many of which sell their carpets to US chains, across nine Indian states, documenting bonded labour, human trafficking and forced labour.

The working conditions uncovered were nothing short of subhuman,” the report, written by Siddharth Kara, Fellow with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and Adjunct Lecturer on Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Factories and shacks were cramped, filthy, unbearably hot … filled with stagnant and dust-filled air, and contaminated with grime and mold. Some sites were so filthy, pungent, and dangerous that the researchers were afraid to enter due to the risk to their safety.”

Satyarthi’s award should renew a focus on child labour. Shireen Vakil Miller, advocacy director with NGO Save the Children, told India Abroad News Service: “This event will bring into the spotlight the problem of child labour in India.”

The Nobel Prize “should be an inspiration for Indian children, millions of whom are still stuck in child labour”, she said: “India now needs to focus on a complete ban on child labour in all forms.”


This article was originally published by IndiaSpend.

You must be to comment.

More from IndiaSpend

Similar Posts

By You're Wonderful Project;

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

By Sumit

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below