Even though May is past, summer is at record high temperature in Andhra Pradesh and other parts of India. Life is becoming unbearable due to the heat wave, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a ceiling fan run while at work.
Cannot imagine the plight of workers out in the field or outdoors.
It is giving migraines to even think of those things.
It is unthinkable to imagine in this red hot Sun how child workers under age six, how hard they work to earn a square meal a day.
If we think of the things children are capable of doing, it appears like there is nothing they cannot do.
Whatever the adults are doing they can do it to whatever extent they can sometimes even better due to their tender digits.
By carrying dirt in furnaces, lining up the bricks, pulling out the completed product from the furnaces, they are turning their bodies and their lives and childhood into ashes with soot and carbon.
It is not them, it is the society that is making it that way.
In some other places they scavenge for empty water bottles, pieces of iron rods from the trash or dirt, carry dirt, it looks like there is nothing they would not be able to do.
Girls on the other hand, wash dishes, do the dirty laundry, massage the landlord’s or owner’s feet, hold babies one year younger than themselves, sacrifice their childhood in babysitting them, taking responsibilities thrusted upon them.
Some voluntary organizations identify the young child laborers and promote education by enrolling them in schools by giving mandatory education. Parents although pretend to be sending them to school for some time, they pull them out of schools and put them back to work to make some daily wages. In these circumstances, if we question the parents, we get only one answer: while too many children, ill health, head of the family alone works, having insufficient funds to run their families, starving are major reasons, other reasons are, even though the education is supposed to be free, they still have to invest money in clothing, books, for educating them. It becomes unbearable to furnish all these to their children. Instead of educating them while spending money, they find it easier to send the children to work and make some income. This creates more and more children turned into child labor.
Employers giving work to the parents and children argue that, they are helping them economically by giving wages, and saving them from starving. In reality child workers when they skip their education are turning into illiterates. This situation leads to making one other generation of illiterates. This will continue endlessly like catch 22 and keeps them in a constant loop.
Since they have been working as child labor and not been getting nutritious food, they get developmental problems and disorders of health. They not only get to be a burden on themselves, but also become a burden to others. Eventually they will turn their children into child labor. Mostly child workers are coming into the cities from rural areas and economically backward classes.
According to Article 21-A of the Constitution of India, children in the age range 6 to 14 years, have to be educated mandatorily, but does not seem to be in effect. If it is left as just another bureaucratic responsibility and the people do not take part in the growth, it is the society that will be lacking progress. Unless voluntary organizations, parents, employers who give work to under aged employees and children change their heart about this aspect and allow the kids to go to school and offer them the gift of childhood back to the children, these circumstances do not change. If not, it will become a common practice to declare child workers day and record the number of children working as child laborers, in the census data.
- Hemalatha Putla