Can you fix this? A hushing voice of a kid standing on entrance of a tailor’s shop. The tailor raised her eyebrows, looked at the timid kid for some seconds and then again got indulged in working on a piece of cloth. The kid was still standing on the entrance with one foot in and other out of the entrance door. Ready to answer all questions. The tailor nodded her head and lowered her eyes the kid entered the shop on seeing her expressions. He handed over a shabby almost transparent blue pant to the Taylor. The pant was half of the size of the kid.
The tailor examined the pant and looked at the kid before she could say anything the kid said “Choti ke school Ka pant hai, rubber laga do”. The tailor took out an elastic rubber from a drawer and did her job. She looked at the kid again, he offered her a ten rupee note. She asked him if he is the same boy who worked at the momos shop. He nodded into a yes and ran away grabbing the blue little pant before she could ask more questions. Maybe he faces such questions daily and finds those annoying.
During day time he chops cabbages and onions and prepares the flour. In evening he helps the chef with momos orders and at night when children sleep, this child cleans the dishes and prepares the kitchen for the next day. His day starts at 5 in morning and ends past 11 or sometimes 1 or 2 a.m. Hardwork is not changing his fate.
Does he have any passions? Yes, Playing outside and reading. He tries to read the alphabets on walls of the school boundary. A boundary with big walls for him. A boundary he is restricted to enter unless he gets a tea or momos order from the school staff during lunch break.
What does he actually looks like? By birth, exactly like the kids in your families. By fate, remember KALAM? Kalam from the movie “I am kalam” who teaches a prince how to read and write poems and the prince gives him books to read. He used to work in the day and read at night. His name was chotu initially, like any other child labourer around you. Stanley from “Stanely Ka dibba” a creative child. He works in evening and night hours in dhabba and goes to school in morning. When one of his teacher warns him not to eat from other’s tiffin, then Stanely survives by drinking water. Finally Stanely managed to get his dibba from leftovers in dhabba. Arjun? From “Hawa Hawaii” who works at a tea stall and loves skating. He enjoys chatting with his ragpicker friends who are living in a vicious cycle of child labour. Fortunately Kalam, Stanely and Arjun met someone who helped them to get out of child labour web. What about the lakhs of Kalam and Stanelys who never meet their rescuer?
How you can help kalams and stanelys around you?
• Under Jammu and Kashmir juvenile justice care and protection of children act 2014, you can register complaint against those who are encouraging the practice of child labour.
• You can write to mission director of integrated child protection scheme (ICPS) to know about the government sponsorship for free child education to children from 3-18 years in age. Yes you read it right 18 not 14.
• Get in touch with NGOs working for child rights.
Renu Kotwal is a student of Central University and a social worker.