Oct 31, 2007

Educate... Empower!!!

‘Padhna likhna seekho… oh mehnat karnewaalo…’ – an oft heard jingle on Doordarshan… time we start hearing and seeing more of similar campaigns on the more popular radio and television channels. It is a shamefully accepted irony that in this era of information technology and knowledge booms many are deprived of the basics of education.

Illiteracy as a problem is growing and the obvious effects of illiteracy are growing in leaps and bounds too. Child labour being one of its direct fallout. Most families below and close to the poverty line believe in having big families. Their funda of ‘more hands to earn… means more food to eat’ is in fact widening the chasm between the wealthy & wise and the not so wealthy & deprived.

More and more children are being forced to working and earning for the household. They are forced to do manual work at public eateries, firecracker and matchbox factories… you name the place and you will find children of all age groups sweating their brows out. In many cases the working conditions are harsh and dangerous too. It is unfair to push them into something that could cost them their health and life, without even giving it a second thought. It is easy to justify that we are not directly involved. But the fact that we indulge in the resultant products like crackers, matches etc. without raising a voice against child labour is enough to feel guilty about.

I’ve been traveling by local trains in Mumbai for some time now. It is not uncommon to find young kids selling their wares in the ladies compartments. From vegetables and fruits to stationary to colour-me books to hairclips... they’ve got enough stuff to generate moolah for the day’s meals. What I found most amazing was that these young minds are really sharp. Managing and marketing their wares, active participation in bargaining, money management… all this done as deftly as one could. I saw this one little boy counting his days earnings… it ran into a few hundreds… the lad must have been barely 5-6 years old… in retrospection, I don’t remember myself being able to manage my lollipops as well at that age. I think it is time we harness such potential, nurture them with the right kind of education and stand back and watch how these young minds grow into little geniuses.

Child labour is an age-old menace. It has been recognized as a social evil in many a forum. Lot has been done to do away with it. Several non-governmental organizations and social service groups are playing a vital role in spreading awareness and eradicating the problem. However, given its enormity, there is a lot more that needs to be done.

Recently, I read that the government is planning to pass some bill that puts a ban on child labour. Such gestures are definitely a welcome sign; but one is never too sure of its success or how corruption-resistant it would turn out to be. What I personally believe is that issues like illiteracy and child labour are created by us. It is but fitting for us to accept that somewhere sometime we have been personally involved in adding fuel to the fire. As an awakened society we need to accept this mistake and work out ways and means to alleviate little children caught unawares in this wretched web of forced child labour.

Most of us work with established names in the corporate world. Thanks to the high quality of education we ‘experienced’. It is payback time now… and the least we could do is probably spread awareness… keep ourselves posted about the problem on hand and the various efforts being taken up to resolve it. Making people aware about it would increase the number of hands willing to cooperate and participate in various efforts. There are various ways in which one can help. Arranging for funds, volunteering for various social groups, educating a bunch of not so privileged kids in our neighbourhoods, expressing strong dissent to various forms of child labour, spreading awareness at corporate levels, etc are some of the many ways in which we can play our bit towards this mammoth effort.

The adage ‘more is less’ fits in here perfectly. It is not enough for us to sit back and applaud others doing good service. It is time to make our little contribution to society. A small step taken by us would play a vital role in bringing a smile to many a child that has been deprived of a fun-filled childhood like ours. If ‘more is less’ is apt… so is ‘small is big’… our effort or contribution may be small, but that should not detract us because whatever little we do would mean the world to some little genius to be.

‘ Knowledge is power… lets empower one and all ’


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