According to the World Child Labour Index 2012, India falls into the category of countries where the condition of child labour is extremely critical.
One in every 11 children in India is working.
Privileged we are, sitting in the comforts of our homes with our parents to guide us and provide the best possible education and health care facilities. Unfortunately, there are many children out there who have lost their childhood in their quest to ensure their own and their family’s survival.
The sheen of Delhi’s status and money attracts people from different regions who migrate to find work here. Bihar and Rajasthan, particularly, are two states where the appalling conditions of water shortage and unemployment force them to leave their homes. Unfortunately, the responsibility to facilitate the income of the household also falls on the children. Some children indulge in a shoe-polishing because their ancestors did the same while others sell goods on the traffic signals.
Although, the places they inhabit in Delhi are not vastly different either. There is mostly no electricity, acute water shortage and have to pay a fee for basic necessities like using the toilets.
Ajay (named changed for privacy), a 13-year old from Rajasthan started polishing shoes after the death of his father. Ajay and his younger brother Rajesh’s (named changed for privacy) childhood is lost while being engrossed in earning for their survival and taking care of their mother and sister.
There are many such immigrants from Rajasthan who do the same work.
Within the community of these immigrants, the worst hit by these circumstances are the girls who are not allowed to work like their brothers. They take care of the household chores but are often forced into begging.
Few years back, Ajay used to work in a dhaba. His work was to clean the utensils and wash the vegetables which earned him good amount of money (around Rs 3000/month) to take back home. But, due to the intervention by the Police, he was forced to leave that work and his sole source of regular income was lost. But now, he barely earns around Rs 50-80 per day, from a very fluctuating source of income.
Moreover, now he is married off to a 12-year old girl from his own city.
In such a gloomy scenario, the happiest moments in their lives are when they forget everything else and play cricket in the morning. Their passion for cricket shows the most when after all the day’s hardwork, neither will they ask for food nor water, BUT a Cricket Bat.
Vishnu (named changed for privacy), an 8-year old sells pens on the traffic signals near Connaught Place. He dreams of becoming a cricketer like his favourite Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Not just this, he wishes to watch a match live in a stadium where his favourite players are playing.
These children have dreams of becoming Police officers and cricketers which are crushed under the pressures of earning and taking care of their families. There are many instances when both Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations fail to rescue them and these children fall back into the vicious cycle of child labour. Sadly, there is barely any runway for such big dreams.
Ajay, Rajesh and Vishnu – and countless others like them have similar stories, but they remain mere names and statistics.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.