OF LIGHTS, SMOKES & CHILDREN

With Diwali rounding up, there is a spirit of festivity, celebration and rejoice everywhere. Undoubtedly, when one speaks of the festival of lights, the first things that come to mind are- crackers, sweets, family and friends. As any other festival, Diwali is primarily about spreading happiness. In the modern day, the story of Rama’s home-coming might not hold relevance, howsoever, people of all caste, creed and religion come together and celebrate inspite of the endless problems persistent in today’s world.

It has expectedly kicked off debates upon the usage of crackers with each side putting across strong points to defend their stand. The call of the hour is moderation. We must inculcate the habit of questioning, reasoning and then coming upon a conclusion. Though the tradition of fireworks is not old but it is now a vital part of Diwali celebration and thus be it kids, youngsters or adults, everyone enjoys them equally. Thus, today Diwali without fireworks is unimaginable. There is a belief that lighting firecrackers is a symbol of prosperity, good health and fun. But this happiness is paid by the children who have their involvement in making of these firecrackers. In addition to it these crackers have also been a major source of pollution.

In a small town of Tamil Nadu called Sivakasi, exists a major firework industry of India. They cater to approximately ninety percent of the demand. In Sivakasi, poverty and lack of farm produce are the main reason for child labour. The employers also prefer children because of ease in management, discipline and lack of labour unions. The children in these industries suffer from back ache, neck ache, tuberculosis, malnutrition, gastrointestinal disorders, dermatitis, respiratory disorders, over-exhaustion, burn injuries and waterborne diseases due to exposure to harmful chemicals in the work environment. To add to it, there have been numerous cases of accidents due to negligence, hazardous work conditions, over-stocking and so on.

It’s high time we wake up from our reverie and realise the enormity of the problems caused by pollution. It causes discomfort and serious health issues to patients suffering especially with respiratory problems, infants, animals and birds.

Pollutants take days to clear up. In Kolkata, in 2014 the level of pollutants was dangerously high causing long lasting health problems to numerous. During the Diwali festivities, 12 people were admitted within three hours to the city’s Fortis Hospital with severe breathing problems. Among those admitted here during Diwali, 80 percent were asthma patients, but the rest had no history of breathing complications. This is a scenario of one hospital, in one city, of one state in India. We can do the math and understand that the figures will be strikingly high.

As the traditional question goes, ‘If not now, when? If not us, who?’ Answer these and the next step becomes clear. We all are aware of climate change, global warming, human rights and other such terms. We talk about them. We want to fight for them. We want things to change. We can be that change, but do we want to? The choice is ours. We are our own saviours after all.

– Vasudha Harlalka

Advertisements

CHILD LABOUR: SALUBRIOUS OR LUGUBRIOUS

“You can’t regulate child labour, you can’t regulate slavery. Some things are just wrong.”

 

A young man commits a heinous crime with remorseless eyes and an unwavering heart. His lack of empathy sends a chill down the spines of onlookers. Now when society is about to cast him away for his vice, they fail to realize that they had already done so, many years ago, when they had turned a blind eye towards the evil of child labour which had so unsparingly convoluted this person’s heart and soul and his perceptions about society at large and communitarianism.

 

The Constitution of India in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive of State Policy prohibits child labour below the age of 14 years in a hazardous environment. It had also envisioned that India shall, by 1960, provide infrastructure and resources for free and compulsory education to all children of the age 6-14 years. The 2001 National Census of India has another story to say, an estimated 12.6 million children, between the age group of 5-14, slog countless hours to earn a day’s worth of bread and butter. 120,000 of these were in a hazardous job. When facts and figures like these come to light, it is rather astonishing how the nation at large has failed to combat such an evil for so long.

 

Child labour is still defined as the practice of having children engage in economic activity and not as a crime which deprives them of their childhood and hinders their physical and mental development. There is no historical record of when this practice actually originated but all we know for now is that it has currently found its way to almost every nook and cranny of our country. It is prevalent at every social hierarchal level and yet nobody can answer as to why and how it’s there or provide a clear justification.

 

Apart from the general lack of awareness and the increasing need for money in poor families, it is the lack of efficient educational facilities at various strata that is the quintessential deterrent. While parents of such children use lack of income as an alibi, employers of such orphans use a more diplomatic and emotional rebuttal of having given “a chance[sic] to the poor fellow to continue living”. The lack of proper facilities and rehabilitation systems, puts these children in a ‘do or die’ situation. The social prejudices that the underprivileged people harbor was shockingly revealed when a survey found that they are more reluctant to spend on education for their daughters than their sons. In hindsight, such wayward mindsets and ideology questions the efficiency and relevance of our whole approach at tackling child labour.

 

When both sides of the story appear grey, we turn to the integral adjudicator for this topic, the government. Creating a ChildLine Helpline: 1098 and a ChildLine website: http://www.childlineindia.org.in/ is only helpful if almost 98% of the people are not oblivious of its existence. The ChildLine website has lesser functionality and appeal than e-shopping websites like Flipkart and Snapdeal which further goes on to reinforce that there has been a dearth of radical and heartfelt efforts from the government’s side.

 

One need not look far to see that NGO’s like Bachpan Bachao Andolan and CARE India have managed to bring about more change with a lesser budget. I look forward to a day when we can have a Big Brothers Big Sisters of India http://www.bbbs.org/, a non-profit organization whose goal is to help all children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with volunteer mentors. In my opinion, that would be the first and last step we need ever take to end child labour.

However much we contemplate, in the end it all comes down to the actions we execute and the ever-burning human will and passion. A small change from our side, a wishful thinking or a staunch policy of justice would soon bring about a revolutionary reform and end this horrendous prevalence. I look forward to the future when at least a few of us would even be aware of the presence of a ‘World Day against Child Labour’.

 

-Aayush Poddar

Education and what it has become

Education. The first thing that comes to one’s mind is college or maybe students scratching their head with books. Education has become what gives you a job, money and social status and in short it has become your life. And in search for this so called prosperity, our lives have become a rat race where everyone is dying to get into their dream college or pass exams with high scores. What should have been about learning has become mugging up topics and scoring high marks.

This evolution of education isn’t something much appreciated but is nevertheless followed everywhere. So through this article I will deal with three questions 1. What should have education been? 2. What has become of it? 3. Is there a future?

What should education have been? Education should be a true quest for knowledge, something where people want to learn and know things without having any compulsion to know it. A true quest for knowledge, not only will this lead to us to knowing about things but such an education will emancipate you by forcing you to think. And this can be achieved only if there is no reason for education except the love for knowledge.

What has it become? It has, as I mentioned earlier, become a rat race where it is only about money and having a status in society. Therefore people pursue education and higher education solely for having a degree behind their name. So even if they know things they wouldn’t know when to apply it because they do not truly understand it. Even the teachers have come to a point where they teach only because they’re paid to. All this results to a market like society where half-hearted transactions of knowledge take place.

Is there a future? Maybe there is, but it seems very distant. If I am to say that I believe our society will evolve to understand the true meaning of education and would not be bothered about materialistic side of it, I would be lying to myself. But if education touches even 0.1% percent of the people it actually reaches then that it possible. There is still hope.

 

-Manisha Georgina Dasiah