By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
November 14 is celebrated as 'Children's Day' in our country to pay homage to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on his birth anniversary. He was the first Prime Minister of independent India and can be termed as the architect of modern India. It is due to his innovative ideas that India has made such tremendous progress in science and information technology. When the British rulers left the country, India was a backward country and had no scientific achievement. But now India is almost at par with all the developed tions of the world. Pandit Nehru sowed the seeds of progress after the country gained independence. turally the country owes him a debt of gratitude.
Pandit Nehru loved children and was very close to them. He was "Chacha Nehru" to the children and they had a kind of emotiol bond with him. Hence his date of birth is celebrated as children's day all over the country. This day is meant exclusively for the children and various organizations and schools organize diverse functions for their entertainment. turally this day is hugely enjoyed by the children.
Though November 14 is dedicated to the children, unfortutely there are some for whom "Children's Day" means absolutely nothing and they are not even aware that there is a day, which is meant for them. They are the deprived children, who have to struggle to earn a little amount of money for their respective families as well as for themselves. They have not been fortute enough to step into the portal of a school. That is why the celebration of 'Children's Day' do not impress them in the least. They only know the dark side of life. From early childhood they realize the harsh truth that they have to work hard to survive in this cruel world.
The number of child labourers in the whole world is staggering, and it has become a burning issue, to be discussed by various organizations as well as by the governments of different countries. It has been stated that the largest number of child labourers are in Asia, followed by Africa and Latin America. A significant number of child labourers happen to be below the age of 10 years, though the actual figure is not known. In our own country we come across many child-workers engaged in various capacities. It is stated that the rural children work harder than their urban counterparts. They do various types of work at home and also have to work in the fields, since agriculture is the main occupation in villages. Consequently they are subject to harsh climate, long working hours, heavy loads and toxic chemicals.
In many developing countries including India, many children work in textile, carpet, footwear, glass and firework industries. They are also engaged in gemstone polishing, salt, lime stone and mosaic chip quarrying industries. Many of these industries are highly hazardous for the health and well-being of the children. But the employers and the society seem to be least concerned about that. These little children are deprived of their rights as children. Some of them are working in tea plantations, where they pick tea leaves for a long time and as a result suffer from bruises and frequent fever due to long working hours in humidity.
In our own state we see little children engaged in various occupations to earn a meagre amount of money for themselves as well as to maintain their respective families in a hand to mouth existence. Some little children have to bear the entire responsibility of providing food and other necessities to their parents as well as to the family. In garages, tea stalls, construction sites and in various industries and business houses, child workers can be seen in large numbers. In every occupation they are given the hardest part of the job. In the garages the dirtiest part of the job is relegated to the little workers, since the adult mechanics deem it below their dignity to do such work. In road side stalls they work as dish washers, waiters and water carriers. Children working in the construction sites carry more loads on their heads that their emaciated bodies can bear. Often they go without food due to lack of money— and the bouts of starvation take their toll in the long run.
Many of these little children are serving as domestic servants in many of the private homes, working to the bone for bare survival. The employers are rarely kind to them. These kids take over all the household chores, from cooking to washing to dusting to any other back-breaking job, and after doing all that they get nothing but ill-treatment as their reward. They are abused and beaten black and blue for any little fault by many of their employers. They cannot raise their voices due to fear and the employers take full advantage of their poverty and helplessness.
In fact the employers prefer little children for petty and hard menial work, since their wages are minimum and they cannot protest against the injustice meted out to them. They sometimes do run away from the tyranny, only to fall into a worse situation, which is like jumping from frying pan into fire. These children have to bear all sorts of physical and mental torture and for the girls the situation is much worse, because they often fall prey to the lecherous advances of many a lascivious employers. These children go through a kind of living death, while the society stand by and watch indifferently.
It is very sad really, that even when we are in the 21st century when the tion is making such enormous scientific and technological progress, many of our children are half-starved, half-clad and half-knowing. At an age when they should have played games with their friends, these unhappy children are toiling hard for a bowl of coarse rice, to survive in this unkind world of ours, and staring into a dark future.
So many of them turn into loafers, ruffians, pick pockets, petty thieves or drug peddlers in sheer frustration. Some of them turn into beggars, chasing people for a few coins. Society condemns them and most people avoid them. But very few of us have ever tried to have a glimpse into their unexplored minds. They live in total darkness and their minds are full of unfulfilled dreams.
Children all over the world have the same desires, same mischievousness and the same innocence. But many of them are burdened by every kind of "have nots". No wonder, they lose their innocence before time. Their childhood passes them by without being noticed—and they are compelled to tell lies, cheat, steal and get immersed in all sorts of vices and consequently turn into anti-socials.
For a tion to be progressive, the children must be educated, since they are our future. The hope of the country rests on them. Some time one of them may be called to lead the tion. For that education is of prime importance. Books are the windows, through which they can see the light of this vast world of ours. But the windows are closed to them and they behave like the "prisoners of the cave", as Plato envisaged, who cannot distinguish between shadow and the reality. Only education can dispel their mental darkness. It was the "Father of the tion", who once said that the "essence of education lies in drawing out the best in you". But till now the Mahatma's dream has not been turned into reality.
India has two distinct classes of people—rich and poor. There is a vast chasm between these two classes. The rich forms only a small minority and the children of these families are born with gold spoons in their mouths. They go to the best of schools and with parental influence mage to hold their positions in society, though they may be lacking in adequate intelligence and talent. But a country cannot prosper with a handful of educated and affluent people.
For the development of the tion we must take into account the majority of children, most of whom languish is utter darkness. They do not lack talent, but lack resources and influential back ground, which have become indispensable for success in this country. You may have an abundance of talents, but without the necessary props, you may not be able to achieve the grand success, which you so richly deserve. Because of the lack of opportunity many unknown geniuses may have been lost in oblivion.
So much has been said about compulsory education and about the problem of the child labour. But so far they have remained singularly unproductive. "Child labour" cannot be wished away and "literacy for all" cannot be whistled in by the wave of a magic wand. The project of "Sarba Siksha" is a laudable effort on the part of the government to educate all the children. But for the success of the scheme, the parents must be made aware of the value and importance of education. They must understand that they should not ruin the future of their children by keeping them illiterate. It is also very true that we cannot blame the parents for sending their children to earn money and lead a life of drudgery. They are poor people struggling for survival and may be that with the best of intention they are uble to send their children to school, as they need the money earned by the child, however meagre it may be. Physical needs often supersede mental aspiration, since they are too strong to ignore.
These deprived children do not even know that there is a day, which is meant for them. Hence the festivities of the "Children's Day" elude them and it is like any other depressing day for them. The "Children's Day" will be meaningful only if all the children belonging to the affluent as well as to the economically backward section, are able to participate in the celebrations and enjoy the day.