“The dream of development and child slavery cannot co-exist”
Child rights crusader Kailash Satyarthi, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize along with Pakistan's Malala Yousufzai, is a passionate man. His love for children makes him go to any length to comfort the vulnerable victims of child labour. He loves to cook sumptuous meals for them.
Umesh Gupta, a former employee of Satyarthi's Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), recalled what a brilliant cook Satyarthi is - and how he loves to cook for kids rescued from bonded labour.
Media's darling now: Kailash Satyarthi almost lost his life in 2004 during a child rescue operation in Gonda in Uttar Pradesh (Photo: Indian Photo Agency)
"On several occasions, he cooked for the children who we rescued from work units. His love and compassion shines through such a gesture. The children who would be scared a while back open up and smile in his warmth," Gupta said.
Rakesh Senger of BBA had a similar tale.
"It never fails to amaze us how Satyarthiji comforts the rescued children. After a rescue operation the children are obviously very scared. But an hour with Satyarthiji and they become composed and relax. He has the gift."
BBA has been one of the first NGOs to have started work on child rights, and against child labour in 1980. Touching the lives of thousands of young children, often from socially and economically vulnerable background, the group actively participates in rescue operations along with the police and the labour department and helps the kids reunite with their families.
BBA has also led successful campaigns against the use and sale of products in domestic and international markets that employ children to do the work.
"Satyarthiji is a veteran in the field of child rights. After all these years, no rescue operation is too small for him. I remember he used to take part in every operation, and later comfort the rescued children. In 2004, a raid in Gonda in Uttar Pradesh almost cost his life, but he did not give up... That's how dedicated he is," Gupta said.
Having worked on the field for several years, Satyarthi always stresses on the fact that the issue of child exploitation should not be looked at in isolation.
"Poverty drives many parents into pushing their children into work instead of sending them to school. Addressing this problem is therefore crucial in order to address the issue of child labour and child exploitation," he has said.
Satyarthi also harped on the need to regularise placement agencies that source minor children to work as domestic help.
In June, BBA released a report on the economics of child labour and commercial sexual exploitation of children - a billion dollar market - due to which the vicious cycle involving several stakeholders continues.
There is huge amount of money to be made in India every year through child labour and commercial sexual exploitation of children, the report said.
"The dream of development and child slavery cannot co-exist. Time is running out," Satyarthi said. - IANS