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Let Them Work

The freedom of expression is a beautiful thing. I can blabber all I want, spew out all the bullshit I believe in and you can’t do a thing about it (yes, you can passively resist by refusing to read or listen to my point of view, but there isn’t much you can do about the fact that I’m putting it out into the world for every intelligent organism to view) Also in the same spirit, you are entitled to have your own views and I can do nothing but crib and argue my point of view! It’s this freedom of expression and enforced tolerance that gives me the courage to write this little article. I will draw the wrath of people holding very conservative views on this subject, but all I need to do, is stick my tongue at them and walk away unscathed. Ahh…I love democracy. 

Now getting down to the point - let’s just start off with a general look at the problem of child labour. Indian society is perhaps the most populous in the world. Our concrete jungles and prehistoric villages (yes, it’s an exaggeration, but I let it stand for the effect) are crawling, milling with uneducated masses. In such a society, it’s not really surprising that children have to bear the brunt of poverty that comes crashing upon people when too little has to be shared by too many. It’s not uncommon for us to see children working in factories, construction sites  amongst other places. I wouldn’t deny that a child younger than me once worked at my home, she sent to school and all that, but she still worked while I lounged around watching TV. The very scenario leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. In these situations a rather grim disturbing picture slithers into my mind’s eye - my comfortable existence is sculpted by the sweat and blood of little hands, I stomp on their delicate bare backs by just existing.

Every year around Diwali this guilt boils over when a bunch of kids and activists go around trying to convince people not to burn fire-crackers made by children and contribute in their little way to abolishing child labour. The government of India has also banned child labour and every now and then there are flashes of news about how the police saved a group of teens working in horrendous conditions and set them free. But set them free where? In the barren street s of India? With no food, because of your gracious heroics. The government’s present policy is just a punch in the kid’s stomach. Yes, there was this policy that every child who attends government school would get a meal or two, well, I know for a fact that half the food grains meant for the schools are swindled and sold off, so that strategy isn’t going to work, Sir! It’s about time you put in a little thought the next time you go barging into a factory and rob a child of his only way of finding his next meal.

I can already feel the glares and the fingers pointing at me. I don’t care, I will buy those crackers, I will employ that child, and I rather have him earn his meal with dignity rather than steal or beg for it. True, the conditions that these children work under are no water, no shelter? Set them free under the treacherous sun of India to burn in the heat? The guys up there are great policy makers, but in India, policy is rarely, if ever, effectively translated into action and when the policy itself is so flawed then there is really no hope left. The Indian government’s policy of abolishing child labour and making it a punishable crime for the employer really serves no purpose other than sow seeds of chaos in our already fragile social structure. You take these kids off their jobs and jail the man who employed them and feel good about the hard justice you have brought down upon evil. But did you wait for a second to consider that fate of the children you supposedly saved? Many of them are the sole providers of their family of tiny siblings, all of whom will die of hunger horrendous, so if you can’t save them, at least make the conditions tolerable. The only solution I see with the weak social system we have is to reach a middle ground where children aren’t allowed to take up extremely dangerous jobs, but they can take other jobs. It’s a strategy that is already in practice but if made a law, it might have a far more profound effect.

True, my esteemed reader, I’m a kid from the Indian middle class; the suffering of the poor homeless children of India is alien to me. I will not even say I can empathize with them, understand their problem - all I have is sympathy. But I refuse to be blinded by guilt and sympathy. I stand by my point of view that simply abolishing child labour and preventing children from working isn’t a solution to this heinous problem.

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Vakul Mohanty
A metal-head who's wants to do pursue a Ph.D Currently studying Biology & Comp Sc. at BITS,Pilani - Hyderabad Campus, his life-long ambition is to become a professor and wear shorts to work.


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Let The Good Times Roll Magazine is an online youth magazine
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