One evening my friend and partner went to cover candid shots for our youtube channel. At Chowpatty, where the area for eating joints is allocated, we saw scenes that got us wondering. We had our editorial discussion, which as a team we must, but we were left with – is Child Labour invisible killer?
The scenes were candid. Street children selling balloons, toys, wares. They sat in their demarcated spaces place their wares on a plastic, tarpaulin and play gleefully as they await their customers. Many others walk around blowing balloons selling them to young and old, few selling candy floss while yet other handful teenagers who give a joy ride in toy cars to toddlers.
It is shocking to say the least, that while Government of Maharashtra has banned Child Labour, they are doing little to put an end to this. I know the other side, popularly voiced and used as an emotional blackmail. “Leave these innocent kids alone, they will die, at least they are earning something, guarantee they will get some food and sleep…” I do NOT agree with this reasoning. I’m of a completely different ideology. This has to be stopped.
These children’s innocence was murdered, long before they may have realised. They are all compelled to become adults –cut, survive, cheat, lie and run for life. No child does it out of free-will. They have been forced to work either due to their circumstances, or worse still, most often by their own parents. Many are orphans, or do not know who their parents are. Their caretakers and guardians forced them into child labour.
Hence, i believe it is ‘forced.’ Let us understand the basic facts. The parents of these children were forced to leave their homes, home towns, give up their little plots, whatever they may or not have had. Poverty drove them to the streets of other urban cities. Here on the streets, for them to eke out a living is the biggest challenge. As a result most poor couples ONLY see that producing children is getting extra hands. A complaint most urban elite have is ‘these poor produce so many babies.’ I’ve tried to reason out with many of my friends why this is happening, it is very obvious. Here the government has failed on many, many levels.
These poor are made to live in most abysmal conditions, yet everyone is aspiring. Aspirations are NOT the privilege of ONLY the upper caste or class. As a result these poor want to get out. However being ill-informed and uneducated they can’t see the link between more mouths to feed, pathetic living conditions, poor resources and having no education is depleting their living condition, economy is far out of their grasp.
Most often these street children have dented growth, will most often not see a healthy life beyond their teens, are denied a chance permanently to rise above the mark set by their parents and worse still denied a chance to better their mental and living conditions. Education is the key to their progress and that is denied to them. At a tender age they are groomed or simply forced into working.
While it may seem all innocent, heart wrenching to see such innocent sell toys or wares, when defending that these kids should be allowed to sell their wares, work, think for a minute would you allow the same for your own kid? Why are different rules for one’s self and family and different for poor? Our society cannot develop and improve if we only see myopically me, my family, my children. Our economy’s honeymoon is over and this romantic story will only have a bitter end if a vast population will get handicapped or remain unhealthy in future.
Yes, sadly the NGOs too are divided on this issue. And the government capitalises on this division, any seat of power would. The worry what next, how will survive? These are excuses used to force kids and people to work. To get out and taste freedom is the first right, which is denied to them. It is never too difficult to take these children into education. BMC schools are lying vacant. Migration of poor has taken place and movement is from south to north. As the slums were evicted from the city, the BMC schools imparting free education began to get impacted. There are ways and means to bring the poor into the mainstream, but for that one needs commitment and a political will.
Do see our silent, visual documentation…I do hope more begin to believe this is an invisible killer.