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

70 Years After Independence, Why Is India Still Blind Towards Child Labourers?

More from Esha Panda

STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

Five years back, at six in the morning, I was trying hard not to doze off again while sipping hot tea. I wanted to catch a glimpse of the Independence Day celebration in a high school, which was at a stone’s throw from my apartment in Kolkata.

A silent onlooker – I was completely enjoying the hustle bustle, the flag hoisting, the national anthem and the ambience. To me, the most glorious part of the celebration seemed to be the incredible speech by the school’s principal. In a steady baritone, he touched upon almost everything – the independence of the country, the common masses – and towards the fag end of his speech, he talked about independence of children and all the noble initiatives the government had taken to bring smiles to the faces of street children.

As I listened carefully, he started talking about child labour, and how India is finally heading towards good times. He seemed a little conscious, a bit careful and somewhat hasty. Then I noticed – a dark, skinny figure, barely knee-high, selling tiny Indian tricolours outside the school gate.

The next five years of my busy life somehow managed to land me in apartments right next to schools. Schools that never failed to have 10- to 12-year-old-kids selling tea, tricolours, balloons, flowers outside the enormous gates on August 15. Slowly, somewhere, I felt many a question bubble up – the only unresolved matter being understanding what exactly I was trying to question. The half-served independence? Or the half-blind nation that was only busy hoisting the national flag?

In these 70 years, we have been vehemently celebrating so many ‘Independence Days’ – at times, even taking time out for the World Day Against Child Labour on June 12. The figures and statistics, however, have been stubborn. Nearly 33 million children in India are employed in different kinds of child labour activities. You can spot them almost everywhere. Almost every roadside tea stall is likely to have a “Chotu” who started going to school, but left midway and began their journey as a child labourer.

Once, I happened to strike a short conversation with one of these kids who was hastily piling up washed dishes in a dhaba.

“So your parents allow you to work here the whole day?”

“Well didi, my father himself brought me here. And not the whole day, didi. In the afternoon I go to those tall buildings where my mother works as a maid. I help her out with some of the chores.”

Do you see the real problem here? While we are all revved-up to serve justice to the children in peril, are they even willing to step out of the mould? Do they understand what is happening to them? Shockingly, even their parents will protest even before you express concern.

“Madam ji, those heavy paperbacks are for the rich. We have mouths to feed!”

Understandably so. But while the Minimum Age Convention, 1973, has not ventured much beyond courtroom papers, are we going to wear the badge of disgrace for another 70 years?

A few carefully chosen paths may help open many a door for these children.

1. Make them understand the worth of education. They need to realise that independence does not simply mean raking in a meagre sum from an early age.

2. Children need to be stopped from working in factories and other hazardous environments. For this, the children need to be properly informed and taught about the hazards and the possibly fatal nature of such jobs.

3. Take initiatives and urge the employers to double check the ages of their employees.

4. National laws need to be strictly implemented and enforced, especially in workplaces that tend to hire children.

5. Funds allocated for child welfare, especially the ones for underprivileged children need to be strictly monitored. A major portion of the vulnerabilities and insecurities of children can be done away with, if financial stability is assured.

6. There need to be well- established policies to re-enrol children who were withdrawn from schools and compelled to work as labourers.

The National Child Labour Project (a scheme approved in the 7th Five Year Plan) was indeed the first major stride in protecting the rights of underprivileged children. But much like the rest of the laws and amendments, it has found its place only in the law books. While the child labour crisis does not completely monopolise the socio-economic problems India is facing at present, it is safe to say that it has plagued the nation for years.

As a citizen willing to transform the nation responsibly in the coming years, I strongly feel it’s time we make these children and their parents rethink about ‘independence’. Let the upcoming generations witness an era of conversion of currently empty verbal promises into actual practice.

_

Image used for representative purposes only.

You must be to comment.

More from Esha Panda

Similar Posts

By Ankita Marwaha

By Merril Diniz

By STC INDIA

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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