By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, Dec 5: Kailash Satyarthi is a renowned child rights activist. His organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan, since its inception in 1980, has physically liberated over 80,000 bonded child labourers, including hundreds of Assamese boys and girls. He also led the largest ever Global March Against Child Labour earlier in 1998 across 103 countries.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and Global March Against Child Labour (GMACL), under the aegis of Kailash Satyarthi, have launched a month-long campaign against child labour and trafficking in Assam. The first leg of this campaign is a ‘March against Child Labour and Trafficking’ that will be flagged off from Guwahati on December 8 and will culminate in Dhubri on December 11, after traversing over 300 km. The march will be flagged off by Chief Justice of India, Justice Altamas Kabir.
In an interview, Kailash Satyarthi spoke to The Sentinel about this march.
Why did you choose Assam for launching the march against child labour and trafficking?
KS: Over the years the Northeast, and Assam in particular, has emerged as one of the biggest source area, transit route and destination for trafficking of children for forced labour. A painful combination of frequent natural calamities, surmounting insurgency by extremists, abject poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, weak law enforcement and adverse geographical structure of Assam make it a breeding ground for child traffickers to thrive. Moreover, trafficking of children is a global phenomenon and is the third most lucrative illicit trade in the world after small arms and drugs. I have come across dozens of incidents where Assamese girls have become victims of modern-day slavery in the national capital. Very often these girls are forced to work as domestic child labourers under inhuman conditions in urban centres of India and countries whom we share borders with. Nefarious elements from West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya have set up placement agencies for supplying domestic helps in major metropolitan cities. There exists an organized nexus between such people and local procurers based out of the Northeast. Taking Delhi as a case in point, 36 placement agencies have been identified which traffic Assamese children, mainly girls, to Haryana, Punjab and several other cities. The agents are paid Rs 4000-Rs 5,000 per girl by the placement agencies, which in turn take Rs 25,000- Rs 30,000 from the families where these girls are employed. Although the girls and their families are promised a monthly remuneration of Rs 3,000-Rs 6,000, but in most cases very little or no wages are paid at all. Additionally, these girls behind the closed doors are frequently abused and sexually exploited. Girls trafficked from this region are also forced into child prostitution across the country.
Why did you choose to march in the first place?
KS: Marches have been a time-tested method for mobilizing the masses and bringing about a policy change. I have the experience of some the successful marches including Bharat Yatra against Child Labour (1995) that brought up the issue of child labour on the national agenda. The most important has been the Global March Against Child Labour in 1998 that passed through 103 countries covering 80,000 kilometres resulting in the adoption of a new international law against worst forms of child labour.
What are the core objectives of this march?
KS: Mass sensitization and rights awareness at the source of the problem – remote villages in Assam; engaging administration and judiciary on this neglected issue of trafficking of children for forced labour; strengthening the civil society action; building partnerships with village defence parties (VDPs), community groups and all other stakeholders; advancing the cause of quality education and demanding concrete and time-bound action by the government.
Why engage the judiciary?
KS: Bachpan Bachao Andolan has had several successful experiences of securing landmark judgements from the local judiciary to the apex court. The Supreme Court, for example, has delivered historic orders, directions and judgements to combat bonded and child labour; ensuring rehabilitation; curbing trafficking of children and protecting child rights defenders. You are aware that lack of political will, slackness, incapability and insensitivity on the part of the law-enforcement machinery; inadequate and improper budgetary allocation and public spending by the government across the country have been taken up by the judiciary on many occasions, and has resulted in concrete steps for addressing such issues.
Any specific message for the people of Assam?
KS: Assam is a land with rich heritage and humanity. The forces inside or outside Assam that divide and exploit the people must be countered unitedly through education. Education awakens and empowers. I am confident that soon an enlightened Assam will put down its foot against girls of the State being sold across the country.