Bachpan Bachao (Save the childhood)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

When some one ask you about your childhood, what would you say? "Those were the best days of my life?", "I always wanted to be like that?", the popular one, "I wish I am a child again?", well, don't be surprised if some people say, "Oh! It was a nightmare, don't remind me of that again!" Anand (name changed for privacy) is one among them who is going to say that some time in the future. I always enjoyed his garrulous talk and jovial smile, but it didn't take much time for me to know the pain behind his smile, the true story. He is just under fourteen, works in a hotel near my home. Since last few weeks, my days start with his jokes and little chit chat while having my break fast (in that hotel). Anand is just not another hotel boy. His mind is full of dreams and ambitions. He came all the way from his village in Bellary district to Bangalore, immediately after his 9th standard exams. He recently got his results and he was excited to tell me about the "first class" result he secured in the exam. Some times I used to make sure our discussion focus on studies and his school. I was extremely happy when he told me, "Sir, June 1st is just a month away, by then I will have enough money to buy my 10th standard books & guides and pay all the fees. I will be going home!!!" His parents couldn't afford the expenses for his schooling. This year he decided to manage all by himself. I was really inspired by his determination to continue his studies. I am sure, one day, he will come out of that nightmare with flying colours.

I tried looking at Anand's story in a broader perspective. The reality is beyond our imagination. "Private schools for rich kids often have monthly fees that are higher than the annual income of an average unskilled Indian worker, while the poor often have to be satisfied with schools that are without teachers, or class rooms" and without much money to buy the books. There are (officially) 12.6 million innocent child laborers in India, the highest in the world. "Children are the future torch-bearers of the country", but "children are forced to work in circuses, in factories, in hotels, engaged in forced prostitution or sexual exploitation, drug peddling and smuggling. It would be interesting to know that, as per the findings of International Organization for Migration (IMO), the global 'human industry' generates up to $8 billion each year. The report has further pointed out that an estimated 50000-70000 young girls between 5 to 10 age group are trafficked into India every year[source - Yojana, May 2008]." Many children who are employed as bonded laborers or prostitutes are engaged in occupation that severely affect their physical, mental or moral well being. The dark reality is still unseen by many. Its not very difficult to understand that Poverty and lack of education are the fundamental reasons behind all problems related to children.

We definitely need a multi-pronged approach to tackle the problem. Its not fair to blame the government alone [you can see some initiatives here, here and here]. Its important to ask ourselves, "What can we do along with the government?"
  1. Law against child labour is necessary but not sufficient. The ban doesn't work. Some basic questions are, "Is it (ban on child labor) realistic? Will it be successful? Will the parents cooperate? Will the children give up their jobs so easily if they are earning some livelihood? When the US banned carpet exports in 1990s, Nepalese children turned to prostitution. When Bangladeshi garment industry suffered, children turned to stone-crushing and similar hazardous work[source: excerpts from Yojana, May 2008]" If the children (for example Anand) are completely deprived of employment, they will either be exploited again or they end up getting very basic education which might not make their future fruitful. "Children can be made to learn while they earn", that could be the good option.
  2. Tenth five year plan's target of getting all children into schools could not be achieved and it doesn't even seem like possible in the near future. Pragmatic planning and efficient implementation of projects is necessary. Government projects like National Child Labour Project(NCLP) should be made to cover all the (over 600) districts in the country.
  3. NGOs and Child welfare initiatives like Bachpan Bachao Andolan should be backed and supported (financially) by government and generous people (may be like us?).
  4. Economically well off citizen (who at least have some desire for change) can support at least one child by donating. Here are few links where you can donate. Smile foundation, Save the Children, World vision Foundation, Compassion, SOS Children India site, Child Charity and NGO India, Big Help Foundation, Sponsor a Dalit child. And of course there are many other NGOs and Initiatives where you can get involved and see the change for yourself!
  5. All of us should be proactive against child labor. But at the same time, lets be compassionate to understand the actual problem. Let us figure out the possibilities and see if we can be of any help. Please do help if you think you can!

There are some good things happening around too. Thanks to government initiatives in rural schools, children are getting more and more interested in continuing their schooling. Mid-day meals, free uniforms, free books and recently EDUSAT is making lot of impact in rural India. When I heard about satellite-based tele-education in my village, I was excited to visit my school there and my happiness had no bounds when a little boy said, "ಅಣ್ಣಾ, ಇವತ್ತು ನಮಗೆ ಟಿವಿ ಪಾಠ ಇತ್ತು ಗೊತ್ತಾ? ಬೆಂಗ್ಳೂರಿನ ಸರ್ ಪಾಠ ಹೇಳಿಕೊಟ್ರು! (You know what? we had our class via TV! A teacher from Bangalore was teaching us!)." Over the last few years I have seen significant change in the 'mind set' of parents in villages. I have heard many parents saying, "I want my children to be well educated so that they don't live their life like us." Well, thats something we all should be happy about. Unfortunately its just one side of the coin.

13 comments:

Sushant Naik said...

Truth is always bitter! That is how children in villages are living!


Let me tell you some facts, which I've seen myself:
1) I'm the only student from my primary school who has entered engineering college out of 23 students.
2) From my high school out of 60 students I'm the only one who has done engineering, others didn't even continue their education and I know what they do now too! Some feel very happy when I approach them n few others just hide!

I'm not projecting myself as rich person to continue my education, there are some facts which I don't want to bring infront!

Let me make you aware of another fact,
When I got admission for Computer Science engineering I approached SBI for education loan, answer I got was "We had education loan plan for 3 people this year, and we are done with it, we can't provide you loan!" Does that mean only 3 from a district/year can go to engineering colleges???

You said Govt. is not the reason! I will say Govt can make it still better. I cant say that Govt is part of this problem, I would say it is the problem(Thief is always thief whatever he might have stolen)
Can't they provide education loan to the needy? Aren't they pay back with interest? True that govt made plans to improve education, they improved colleges, increased fees! who'll provide money?

You want to save childhood, you want to ban child labour.. everything is fine.. are you leaving them a way to earn.. So that they can feed themselves n pay their fees?

These problems are there from start to end n wherever you go!
Have you improved PU colleges? Do they have sufficient books in libraries?
When I was in PU there were hardly 3-4 copies of each book.. and it was the only govt. science college in uttara kannada! sufficient?
Law shouldn't be on paper! and when you implement make everyone to follow that..( I luv USA and other countries bcase their laws are strong.. smoking in transits makes them pay $3000 as fine. 1 cigeratte = $3000 too gud.. I love it!)

One of my colleague ("in our company") argued with me on this library issue.. He said "if you really want to study, want to read, you'll borrow from someone.. somehow you'll manage, why are you blaming library for your education? Why do you need reservation when you can't score well?"
I said "Sorry, you've to go through it understand the pain! You expect me to score more than those students who can not only buy books, who can afford to go to coaching classes! I cant even afford to buy books! Everyone can't be Ambedkar!"

I agree that everyone is not born with equal intelligence, but they can build it up provided you give them needed resources!


After all this a person, if he is lucky enough,comes out of it and find his destiny, but it leaves bitter memories behind!

If you really want to bring revolution in education increase number of primary schools,improve facilities, increase libraries, increase colleges, increase education loans and reduce fees and make them affordable to a common man... and remember education is not only enough you also need to encourage sports and give birth to future athletes...

MANJUNATH SINGE said...

@Sushant,
I must thank you for stopping by and looking at my blog... here are my comments.
1. Education Loan issue: I agree, at that time there were some issue. But these days banks are giving education loans at competitive rates. Recently my uncle helped couple of budding engineering students to get their education loan, i heard some good things about loan from him.

2. Govt is the problem? May be you should go through couple of links that i have given. And yeah, there are some implementation issues. i have another article for that, read it when you get time.

3. USA is better? Do you remember Dr. Kalam's comments? -> read this: http://www.bwtorrents.com/showthread.php?t=108203

4. Increase in schools: Sarva Shikshana Abhiyana, Saksharata Andolan, Some night school initiatives, are few examples of change. Change is slow, but happening! People like us should give some push.. don't you think so?

Sushant Naik said...

1) You said education loan had problems.. are they really resolved now? Do you have full proof to say that? Everyone who needs get loan "easily"? There are cities and villages which still lack of loan facilities. There are people in villages who don't even know about such thing exists! I'm talking about these cities and villages!

2) Yes, you might have thousand other links to read!
Let me give you an example:
We have only 2 Govt Kannada primary schools in our native and you gotta see the walls of one school, I dono when it will fall! Will you go to that school or ask your kids to go there?

Let me give you another example of Govt achievements:
In b'lore wherever govt saw traffic jam they constructed flyovers.. Was it planned properly for future? Go and see there is a "signal" on richmond road flyover!

True that no one has expected b'lore to grow like this, but if Govt can't predict this future, then why do we need it?


3) I said USA is better,considering only laws. because they are strict! I am not praising USA saying it's good in all terms. And we Indian's are attracted to their bloody culture..( You know what I mean!!) which I really hate.. You and me both know how pathetic laws in India are!
Let me tell you a real incident happened:
We friends used to meet near beach in our native, and that too we were only 4. A PSI came on his bike and started roping saying "why are you guys here? don't have home? let me take you to station n treat you!"

Why this? Are we criminal's? cant we stay out of our house? Do we need some license for this?

Coming to the link
http://www.bwtorrents.com/showthread.php?t=108203
I don't trust that it came from Prez. Why can't he publish on presidentofIndia site? Don't he have space there? and how trustworthy is http://www.bwtorrents.com ?? Tomoro I can also publish same by his name and say some bullshit!

You say look at good part, we are developing.. Yes we are developing!
How many states are there in Karnataka? how many are developed? You know the answer. Compare with Goa ( please take good under consideration, you might turn back and say it also has bad things! It might have, Your state also has many bad things which you might not have seen!) Being such a small state how they improved tourism.. In my native I see beaches,water falls and lot many. Did govt improved tourism? What you expect me to do here? make pamphlets myself and distribute? Who's initiative it has to be? When you needed defense to be build you can see my native, when you want nuclear reactor you see my native, but why not on tourism?

Your links also say that we Indian's never do this n that thing in foreign countries which we do it only in India.. Do you know why? We say who's bothered? who's going to ""stop"" me? It has something? I referred USA to say when you can force rule saying that 1 cigarette = $ 3000 fine. Do you or will you smoke in public zone?
Will you split if they force same rule on that? There needs to be a controlling body, which is missing!

One more question, Why should I see only good things happened, when bad things are still happening. I've right to ask why I cant I see bad things which happened and are happening. You say media is wrong,
do you think so?
Why Mumbai train's were bombarded? Was there any controlling body? and as time passes we forget these incidents letting them to happen again! and I bet these things will repeat!
When I was in school my teacher said, if a Police officer does his duty sincerely then a thief can't even steal a toy from a babies hand.
And I feel it's very true.


4) You might give me thousand links saying Govt has done this and that. Are they(plans) still alive? Is Govt tracking its own implementations? My native has hardly 4-5 primary schools. Gud enough?? or may be that Govt has made some plans and its yet to reach my native!


Who said we are not developing, We are developing also we are developing poverty! How? ask yourself.

(PS:Don't take my comments personally :) and I referred my native in many places, because I want to improve it, I can't see it like the way it is. )

MANJUNATH SINGE said...

@Sushant
1. Education loan: I understand that things might not be up to your expectations, but are definitely better than at your time. I don't have the proof but so far i have read about it over the last few years :)

2. Kind of never ending arguments, isn't it? you can always come up with defensive/critic argument. Tough to comment actually.....

3. USA laws ought to be better because they have over 200 years of democratic experience, but we just have 60+ years. I agree that things can still be improved, but it takes time in parliamentary democracy.... and there are other factors like corruption, red tapism etc...

-> The link was adaption of president's speech in hyderbad, you can find it in official president's website. Its there! here is the same speech on IIT bombay website ->http://www.it.iitb.ac.in/~aditya/abdulspeech.htm guess you atleast feel that more authentic :P

4. "We are developing also we are developing poverty!" - Thats the very valid point. I always pointed that in my earlier articles, and i think i didn't state anything contradicting this... :)

Charan said...

killer --- let me know if i can do any needy to that "Anand" -
and please tell him not lose any hopes on studies and to have a dream -- just call me up in case you want to talk to me abt this --

MANJUNATH SINGE said...

@Charan
Sure d00d.... Will give our phone numbers to him so that he can contact us if he need some help.

Few other people had also buzzed me on GTalk about their willingness to help. Thanks to all!!

Vinoo said...

Let me know how I can help out..Yep,Anand is a inspiration.

Anonymous said...

@sushanth naik

In my village(Chitnahalli, Thotly (P), Kolar(T), Karnataka) 5 girls are studying engineering in Bangalore there parents are formers, I know them personally, they got eduction loans easily from Kolar Gramina bank, even for one poor girl bank asked to take loan u know…..

If your required i will give u the full details....

Ashwatha said...

@sushanth naik

In my village(Chitnahalli, Thotly (P), Kolar(T), Karnataka) 5 girls are studying engineering in Bangalore there parents are formers, I know them personally, they got eduction loans easily from Kolar Gramina bank, even for one poor girl bank asked to take loan u know…..

If your required i will give u the full details....

Anonymous said...

Good article – My little thought

In Bombay the animal activists forced to ban camel ride in the beach, the camel owner with out any options abandoned the animals, they were later found all around Bombay starving and dying with out food, earlier at least they had some hope of survival. Animal cruelty is wrong but before banning have in place other alternatives ready.

This again is debatable topic, I was talking to a hotel owner, he says almost every day a child come starving from different parts of the state asking for job, they feel pity for their state and provide them job as well as shelter, he says that is how he got in to this field. Now he has chain of hotels. Working in certain field for long makes them in dispute winners when compared to their counterparts who come straight from school. There are lots of examples where in people used to wash plates during daytime and study at night and completed their degree. With abolish of child labor we are probably closing the doors for all such less fortunate winners. With the kind of poverty and population of our country it would be too early to abolish child labor, we need a parallel infrastructure in place before we take such steps. When I say infrastructure it mean government/NGO child homes for every poor child, which also provides education, its long way to go because even most rich countries don’t have it in place.

I was talking to my friend regarding similar problem in our country, he just said make your self-feel lucky you are born in India. There are few African countries where children/adults work from 1 full day to get 1 time food. We at least have a government who does some thing or at least few things. There are many NGO working towards it. I personally think our country is at least equipped to tackle such scenarios, definitely lot more can be done to improve the situation. Its important for each of us to contribute through any of the sources either government or NGOs, we’ll at least have the consolation that we at least did something for the society. I didn’t feel very guilt after reading this article because I am associated with SOS for more than 5 years and try to contribute little in their big effort.

MANJUNATH SINGE said...

Srini had sent this comment Via Mail:

Shettigar Srinivas: i had some problem adding my comments
2:50:52 PM: Good article – My little thought

In Bombay the animal activists forced to ban camel ride in the beach, the camel owner with out any options abandoned the animals, they were later found all around Bombay starving and dying with out food, earlier at least they had some hope of survival. Animal cruelty is wrong but before banning have in place other alternatives ready.

This again is debatable topic, I was talking to a hotel owner, he says almost every day a child come starving from different parts of the state asking for job, they feel pity for their state and provide them job as well as shelter, he says that is how he got in to this field. Now he has chain of hotels. Working in certain field for long makes them in dispute winners when compared to their counterparts who come straight from school. There are lots of examples where in people used to wash plates during daytime and study at night and completed their degree. With abolish of child labor we are probably closing the doors for all such less fortunate winners. With the kind of poverty and population of our country it would be too early to abolish child labor, we need a parallel infrastructure in place before we take such steps. When I say infrastructure it mean government/NGO child homes for every poor child, which also provides education, its long way to go because even most rich countries don’t have it in place.

I was talking to my friend regarding similar problem in our country, he just said make your self-feel lucky you are born in India. There are few African countries where children/adults work from 1 full day to get 1 time food. We at least have a government who does some thing or at least few things. There are many NGO working towards it. I personally think our country is at least equipped to tackle such scenarios, definitely lot more can be done to improve the situation. Its important for each of us to contribute through any of the sources either government or NGOs, we’ll at least have the consolation that we at least did something for the society. I didn’t feel very guilt after reading this article because I am associated with SOS for more than 5 years and try to contribute little in their big effort.

I, Me, Myself said...

The facts you presented here represent true face of India. Its sad to see such things happening.

The divide between rich&poor also creates much impact on child. They feel deprived of basic amenities and hence in the wave of trying to earn more does make them follow wrong path.

All I believe is every problem has a solution. But some problems take long time to be resolved. Child Labour is one among them.
I really liked the idea of "learn while earn". One of my friends who is in Australia for higher studies works as a part-time carpenter in order to meet his demands. Similarly if steps are taken this 'learn while earn' can prove to be very useful for childrens like Anand.

IIP Foundation said...

Thanks for the head up! Will keep this in mind!

IIP Foundation

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