Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is child labour worth it?


I have read somewhere that a child’s mind is like a blank sheet of paper. It gets molded the way her/his parents, teachers, etc. shape it. Most of us hooked to the Internet at this moment are very lucky. Our parents loved us, cared for us, provided for us. We should know better to count our blessings, rather than crib about trivial issues.

This has been my thought process all along. However, recently, I came across a news article that upset me. There was a report in the Hindustan Times (20th July, 2010, Page 13, "Re 1 per hour: Children fuel Bt cotton boom") about how children (approx 25,000 to 30,000) brought over from Rajasthan were being used to pluck Bt-cotton in Banskantha and Sabarkantha(Gujarat). Gujarat produces half of all the cotton in India.

Child labor is a crime; however agricultural labour being non-hazardous children are allowed to work for up to 6 hours a day. Here the children were reported to be totally exploited (read: made to work 12-14 hours a day) and were not even taken care of (read: 40-50 children packed off in a room) – that too for meager wages (read: approx Rs.13/- per day). Health hazards are common and some children have died too. Why do the parents allow it all? There is always paucity of funds with the poor; extra income is always welcome. Parents get paid an "advance" of Rs.500/-. The children earn somewhere around Rs.1000/- for the 3 month period.

After reading the entire report I was filled with anger. There was anger with the parents, anger with children who complied, anger with the "mates", anger at the landowners who hired children, anger at the government and anger at the system in general. When we have a nation of 1 billion people, do we really need to employ children at meager wages to get our jobs done? When there is rampant unemployment, technological advances, et al, why are children being targeted so?

We need to remember these children are India’s future. Long after you and me will be gone, they will still be here. They will know, they will remember and they may react, or worse still pass on the tradition to their progeny. Is that what we really want?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What did you gain from yesterday's bandh?


A nice fuzzy, warm welcome to the monsoons who are finally almost here!

And here I am @SIMC (I love watching the dark clouds gather day & night!). We had an adventurous week with the usual dose of assignments & case studies. And I am getting totally settled in my new routine at college with assignments, exams, rainbow sightings, et al.

Some one's bane can be your boon too, is what I realized this Monday. We were to have our monthly class test this Monday. So like a smart bunch of B-school students we virtually turned book worms over the weekend. The corridors of the hostels that are usually bustling with enthusiasm over weekend's arrival were eerily quiet.

And then apparently some of the prayers got answered! The test was postponed to Tuesday - reason being the Nation-wide bandh called by the opposition against the price hike. That precise moment was really a confusing one for me. I was happy the test was postponed, but not really.

I for one, do not believe in bandhs. They do no good what so ever. I mean, what kind of point do you prove by shutting down business, running in crores of losses, and keeping the daily wage worker hungry? Strikes or bandhs have been used for several centuries, usually by factory workers, etc. However, since 1960's bandhs have been rampantly used in the country, usually by the Opposition parties, in order to rebel against the ruling government. A case in example would be West Bengal which encounters approximately 40-50 bandhs every year.

However, even if you enforce a bandh and ensure that all work halts, how does that help your cause any better? Like in the current instance. I believe, the Opposition thinks that government should continue to provide subsidy, despite of running potential losses of several crores. Money that can be wisely put to use elsewhere like Education or helping SME. Hence, I don't think the Opposition is right with their current attitude. But more importantly, if the prices are rising, how will holding up a nation of 1.18 billion from going to work fix that problem? I am perplexed.

I can understand the concern that the Opposition might be facing with regards to an issue directly related to the "aam junta", however, furthering their own propaganda at the cost of innocent citizens can never be termed right. The real people who will be affected will be the BPL, poor and lower middle class income groups. The rest will manage by saving more or cutting costs. These people who get affected cannot, to my disbelief, want to take an unasked for holiday. That Rs.50-300 per day could mean a lot to them. The politicians in all their excitement have forgotten just that. The daily wage worker, the average taxi man, rickshaw guy, the coolie, etc. are the people most affected. By denying them a day's salary can be no justification. It's plain tyranny and harassment.

On top of everything, what point does destroying public property have? By deflating tyres, by burning buses, stopping trains, harassing passengers, etc. what aim does one achieve? How does the common man - the downtrodden benefit from it at all?

I am not sure what the party heads of these various organizations were thinking. But I am sure at this moment they were definitely not right.

And yes, since bandhs never seem to bother you, so could you please enlighten me as to how did the bandh help you?