Child Labour is a hot problem in India and worldwide. As per the estimates by UNICEF, nearly 150 million children are engaged in child labour worldwide. Recently I read an article about child labour which lead me to think extensively about it. I recalled an instance from approximately 1.5 years back, about which I had written in my notebook then. It made me feel very sorry for that little kid, and a question arose in my mind – Are we forgetting humanity?
The incident may be a day-to-day one for some, but still it opens our eyes and forces us to think for a while – Are we heading in the right direction? I was traveling to my town in western Rajasthan, which is approx. 70 km from the city. It was summer season, and so it was much hot. I entered the bus and luckily found a seat and got seated.
As I was on the window seat and so I was watching the outside scene of the road from the moving bus. Watching the agriculture lands on both sides of the road and the Khejri trees alongside the road was what I was doing, just to pass the time. In between this, half-an-hour elapsed and the bus reached the first stop. As it was a small village stop so people usually used to get in and out of the bus at this stop point. I glanced a view outside where I saw that there was a small road-side shop (Dhaba) and as the bus stopped, many child ran behind the bus and offered small pouches of pakodas (Indian food made of gram flour) and packed water bottles to the travelers in the bus. These minor children usually compete with each other to sell their goods and probably they were paid a commission for each item by the shop owners.
Just then a person boarded the bus who was around 40-45 years of age. He got seated two rows ahead of my seat and occupied the window seat. After a while, the bus slowly started towards the destination. This person who was sitting till now, hinted a small boy with his hand and asked the cost of a bottle of water.
“It will cost Rs.10 per bottle” – the little boy uttered. He indicated his interest and the boy who was short in height ran towards the bus and handed him the bottle through the window with great difficulty. At this point, the speed of the bus increased. The person after taking hold of the bottle, took out Rs.10 currency note from his pocket and pretended to offer the child the note. The child who was still running towards the bus couldn’t catch the note as it was at much difference from his reach.
After some time, the bus speeded up and the person didn’t make any attempt to tell the bus driver to stop for a while (it was a local bus, which may have stopped if requested). After this, the person kept the currency note in his pocket again, sat down and pretended to behave normally. I was seating in the bus and amazed at the scenario where no one else told anything to him. I thought to tell him something but then I thought, that he is a local person and may feel offended by this. People usually feed offended when a person unknown and lesser in age offer them advice or try to correct them.
Whole of the journey I kept on thinking that these kids at this tender age have to risk their lives to sell things on the highway. These kids are the future of the nation and will become citizens later. I later on came to know that these kids are offered Rs.1 or 2 by the shop owners on each of the bottles sold. As the kid seemed poor, he may have to compensate this loss by selling 9-10 bottles in this risky way.
On the issue of child labour, many national and international organizations and individuals are doing their best to create awareness. As a responsible citizen of the country, we also have a duty towards the society and these kids. We, as a human have a moral duty of “humanity” too.
Are we fulfilling our duty properly?
Are we a “human” in the real sense?