CHILD LABOUR and society

A short story: Why child labor exisits

Positive lies behind child labour but need to transform education system

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I was on the way to meet textile exporter. In my car, hands holding steering and eyes were on crowded traffic, except the mind, working in different direction, thinking about child labor and its impact on textile exports. This issue was disturbing me for several months. Earlier during visit to factories in rural villages, I observed kids of 12-13 years working for half the wages than adults. Many carpet factories had sought their services for the reason, especially, child fingers move faster in delicate carpet knotting and weaving. Similar situation was in brass and glass handicrafts, small restaurants, shops and street begging.

My first thought was “Why child labor is sought in factories?” My second thought “Why child goes to work?” My third thought “Who are responsible for child labor?” These factors drove me to move ahead to meet some of the child laborers. The spirit in me diverted mind for research on this subject. View my website “Child labor and society”
After meeting an exporter drove car towards garbage dumping area where kids pick their booty. Area was very stinky, eagle and vultures hovering over to find flesh left over by butchers. I whispered in mind “Heads off; to their nerves enduring rotten smell, just for the bunch of trash.” Their compulsion to carry absurd job made me emotionally wet. They deserved respect from the bottom of my heart.
I knew they wouldn’t respond to my questions that easily so took some money from my pocket. Went closer and said “How much do you earn from trash?”
One of them nodded in refusal “Who are you? No.”
I knew this before, those currency notes handed over to them “Now Ok!”
Happy holding currency notes in hand “We make around 80 -100 Rupees per day.”
“What do you do with the money you earn?”
They together in one voice “Give to Mom.”
“Your names”
“One said Rahim and the other boy said Shankar.”
They were talking in the midst of picking booty. Shankar picked a bag, some packet was inside. He opened it then said in disgusting voice “Its poo inside, oh no! Lousiest smell” threw that to other side far from their search area.
I enquired “Where you both live?”
Rahim said “We live just behind that vegetable market in shacks. Shankar is my closest friend lives just next to my home. Our moms too are good friends, together go to work.”
“Where you lived before coming to Delhi?”
“My parents lived in Raipur in village and Shankar’s parents lived in Banaras in village.” Rahim said his hands over Shankar’s shoulder closely hugging “Shankar is my best friend. I like him.”
“We all leave our villages so we can find better life in cities. But unfortunately we all end up in dirty jobs.” Shankar moved toward his large sack filled all the booty.
We are migratory kids,
From our own native home,
End up in cities looking for life,
Strive here and there for life and food,
Sleep and live under bridge and streets,
We too are kids like you,
We too have dreams life you,
We too have life like you,
We too live in your world,
The only difference,
You live life, we kill life;
To pack both bags, picked polythene sheet and tore into long string to tie “Now we are ready, we will sell to wholesale scarp buyer.”
Rahim’s father left his mom married another and Shankar’s father had died 3 years back. Shankar’s father worked in a factory but heavy alcohol drinking took his life. Of 170-185 million child laborers world over nearly 90% of child laborers are migrants from rural villages.
“We are the earning members of our home. Mom is a domestic servant, does cleaning and dusting. She gets meager wage so we contribute for home.”
Rahim looking at my eyes “I suspect now, who are you? And why you are asking all these questions? Are you from Police or a news paper?
In order to continue discussing I had to clear my part so I said “No I am neither of these nor am to do any harm. I am here to learn the reason, why this situation exists?”
Rahim’s doubt was clear his eyes appeared in sorry “Before rag picking, we were working in an electronic parts recycling unit. One day police raided that factory and took all 11 children to police station.”
Shankar continued at Rahim left “In the name of rehabilitation they sent us to NGO then they sent us to children home. Was fully packed, had to adjust with some criminal children. Food was lousy, water was scarce, overall was scary atmosphere. In 10 days we had learned what real prison means and persecution in the name of rehabilitation.”
“Rehabilitation is just formality and eye wash. I don’t know who they want to show. Complete nonsense! Take our example, we were having respectable work and to learn something in electronic spare parts recycling but their nonsense rehabilitation had pushed us to rag picking.”
Both laughed “Ha! Ha! Ha! We tricked them and escaped.”
Rahim’s face looked angry “They threat our families to stop sending us for absurd jobs. When our mothers ask some job to live respectfully, they have no answer.”
I gave thanks to them for sparing some time and left that place. For me now it was sure child labor was as a result of poverty. I wanted to explore more, and then I thought “I will get in touch with more such kids before reaching to conclusion about my opinion.”
Normally, I am always on travel to look for new products for my French importer “HMD.” They import all kinds of home furnishing products from napkins to carpets. For the last 25 years I have been looking their business in India. Every month I go to Mirzapur and Bhadhohi belt. As per schedule I took a flight to Banaras and from there exporter’s car picked me. I stayed in a hotel in Bhadhohi. Next morning exporter’s car picked me to his factory.
My first job was to find his commitment. Second was to find the capacity, then competiveness and other factors. After examining raw material warehouse, packing and finishing section.
We proceeded to the villages where the production was carried. In village each individual house has one or more looms. Exporter issues yarn for cotton warp and wool weft. In this entire process contractor is involved for receiving and issuing. The contractor had connection with over 20-25 villages. He is responsible for daily updating of quality and quantity.
The exporter suggested “Let us have light lunch before proceeding to more weavers.”
I agreed “OK.”
During lunch we had nice talk about the fluctuating demand in international market.
“How China manages cost and sells at very cheap price? They have almost invaded carpet market.” I could see his bewildering face.
“From yarn making stage to weaving and packing is in one house. This brings down the costing.”
“May be I will once have to visit Chinese factories to learn their production process.”
Light lunch took around 45 minutes to finish. Sat in the car and moved for village weavers. Some looms were hungry for work and some loaded with work.
However, when I saw one sweet girl, wearing bangles, of around 12 as I guess, running shaft in the loom I felt in heart and asked the exporter “Why kids working?”
“You know seeking work from child labor is serious issue. No – No my friend it is problem for me, my principle and you too. Above all it is crime.” I said
The exporter in irritation shouted at contractor “Call the weaver now.”
The weaver in haste leaving aside warping loom approached us “She is my daughter and in corner end is my son. They both go to school, after finishing their home work they sit on the looms for some time.”
The exporter stared at weaver “you are hurting my business.”
Weaver knelt his head down and felt sorry “I feel sorry won’t be repeated. However, if doesn’t hurt you May I please speak.”
The exporter in disappointment “I don’t care your anything what I care is my business and International law of ‘child labor.’
My curiousness to know more about child labor crisis I interrupted the exporter and asked the weaver “Please tell what you want to say.”
Exporter whispered in ear “Don’t encourage him.”
“No it is wrong and unacceptable but I want to know his excuses.”
The weaver continued “Please tell me where am I wrong? My children go to school then do their home work. In their spare time if they learn to weave or help me weaving. Is this crime sir?”
“Yes reputed NGOs say seeking child assistance directly or indirectly in work is crime.”
“Sir, don’t think I am arguing and don’t want to argue. Loss of business is loss for me too.” Weaver directed kids to leave looms at once.
“Sir, I consulted ILO definition and they cleared it.”
“Who cares ILO? What will happen if media comes, takes video and photo passes to IKEA or large buyers I have? Media only needs subjects and not facts. How will you justify? They will immediately, not only stop my business but also burden me with heavy penalties and authorities around here will dig grave for me.” Exporter was miserable.
The exporter then looked at contractor angrily “Stop immediately and come to my office in the evening.”
Exporter pointed me “Sir, I discourage this. I have already suffered. A famous NGO with media visited a weaver found child was knotting my carpet. They inflated to terrible issue and lost my business. Now I cannot do business in Australia. After my enquiry I found same case, children were school going.”
“NGOs don’t want solution or elimination of child labor. They only want this issue prevail fresh intact for their survival.”
We moved to other weaving areas. Meanwhile in the car, our discussion on child labor was heating up. He admitted “Children of all weavers know weaving and they help.”
Though I too was accepting from inside as isn’t any offence yet I could not show my feelings to the exporter “seeking work from kids in their education and playing age is an offence. We are inflicting them into stress in their childhood.”
Exporter in curiosity “All I say now are off the record to my country fellow. Do you think china does not have child labor? There is child labor but there is no issue highlighter. They don’t care at all. In China fair they only use two sentences ‘this is price for 40’ and this price for 20’ container’ and ‘how much you want’. As the prices are so low customers forget all. Most NGO’s even keep eyes closed by fear or are bribed.”
I realized in my mind “Yes world kneels before strong and suppress the weak.”
He took cigarette packet from his pocket and offered me one “My granddaughter studies in class one after LKG and UKG. In Sweden mandatory education age is 6 and we begin to burden our children right from the age 3. You know the weight of the bag? It is 8 kilograms, if all books are loaded in the bag the weight reaches 10 kilogram.”
I admitted “yes it’s true.”
“It’s not the end of suffocation “She sleeps for some time. When she wakes up sees her mother holding books for home work. Sometimes I feel so sorry for lovely child, get annoyed and scold daughter in law for wrong doing. Her outright answers and showing school text notes makes my silent.”
I agreed “The same situation is with my daughter. Beyond our imagination as how much mental pain and stress she endures. They do not have time for own activities for real life lessons. There is also a tuition master who teaches English for one hour.”
He responded continuing “Chinese now began learning English; this is after becoming second strongest in our world. They don’t learn to adopt but to expand their own culture, religion and marketing. We Indians can’t do that as we learn to follow as sheep and not produce.”
Continuing from earlier education topic: “Is this not as good as child labour? When a child studies and work,”
He saw my face and corrected “involves in practical activity learns something to produce. But our children learn to be good customer because schools teach nothing except copy and paste from books. Even after doing master’s degree our children have no tool in hand. They are still raw in practical world. Am I right or wrong?”
I had no choice but to say “Yes you are right.”
We finished our weaver and loom visit and reached hotel at 8 in the evening. Had dinner together thanked each other! Next day I was home.