As per a recent report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there is an estimated 10.5 million children who are employed in various industries across the length and breadth of India. From brick kilns to tea stalls… from garment factories to begging, from farming fields to working as household help, children are employed indiscriminately by elders.
Most of these children have either studied up to primary class or not even seen the face of any classroom for that matter. For some of them, books are as alien in their lives as aliens are to earth. The reasons for these children to be working at such a tender age where instead of going to school or playing, they are forced to work in some of most dangerous environments, vary from child to child. While some of them are orphans, there are those who have been sold off by their own parents or relatives and some are working as bonded labourers for the debt own by their family members. But everyone has a story to tell as to why they were forced to take up employment at such a young age.
As compared to children in western countries who opt for small menial tasks like newspaper delivery, moving lawns, washing cars, etc. as a means to earn pocket money, these kids are not forced to work but do it out of their own free will and at the same time duly invest time in their studies. In fact, even their parents at times support these kids so that they understand the finer nuances of finance management and work ethics.
So do kids mentioned above only constitute child labour? Agree completely that poverty is the prime reason for these kids to take up jobs but then what about kids who work in the film, television and the advertising industry as child actors and models? Doesn’t their work also constitute as child labour? Aren’t they too made to slog for hours either shooting a movie or a television show or an advertisement?
We might argue that these kids in the media field are made to work in a controlled environment where their wellbeing is of prime importance. They get their much deserved breaks at regular intervals and at the same time, these kids take huge amount of money home as remuneration. Most of the parents of these kids work as their kids’ managers. That means they don’t have regular jobs. In other words, they live off their children’s money. So in a way, they too a cause for child labour supporting it indirectly by forcing their kids in the glare of their media world.
Like its said, poverty is the prime reason for most of the kids in towns, cities and rural areas to give up schooling and take up jobs to support themselves and their families. But kids who work in the media world and are often from metros come from a decent background where its not necessary for them to slog out in front of the camera but yet in some cases are forced by their parents who in turn are lured by the magical worlds of films and television.
If these kids are work in a so called controlled environment, it’s time for the government, the society and us largely to make a similar so called controlled environment for the poor kids engaged in child labour. They have minimal to no options other than to work and support themselves and their families, no other source of income other than to slog in the hot brick kilns, wash dishes in dhabas, mop the floors in houses or sell newspapers and other assorted items.
We need to give them a better environment – a mix of work and worship i.e. they can work part of the day and the rest of the day worship Maa Saraswati (Goddess of Learning) by way of going to school for a better future. Can we do this for our children for their better tomorrow ?