11.30.2007

Child labour

When I turn around in my seat I see a construction site in the distance where around 40% of the workers look like children to me. Playful, adventurous and having fun. And I am not talking only about toddlers playing with mud and stones in the scorching sun but also about the teenagers who are lugging around heavy stones,displacing mud, watering the newly built cement walls while carrying heavy pails of water.
Its a shame. This area is supposed to be the information industry belt. And people who work here are supposedly well educated. Yet when it comes to construction and hard labour matters they seem to turn the other way as these young adults strive hard. Even though it is against the law in India.
But if you see the other side of this coin, these kids are striving to improve their living by sacrificing their childhood and education. They are constantly trying to help run their household. There is nothing that will force them to go attend schools while their parents scrape a livelihood all day. Not even free food works in most of the blue plastic cover wrapped on-the-move communities. Some of them have circumstance beyond their control due to which they have to work in order to be able to eat. Some live alone. Who will look after them if they dont? Wouldnt they resort to begging? Or get lured into doing acts against society which dint care about them in the first place?
Five years back I sent a mail of objection to the CFO of my previous company regarding one of the cleaning staff being a kid who definitely did not look 18. Although he assured me that the administrative staff check the age records before hiring he did start another check. I felt good about my community spirit till the evening when I started despairing for the kid's family. What if he was the only breadwinner for them? I felt extremely miserable and guilty for the next few days. The next week however I ran into the kid again near the stairs and I was so happy to see him back that I gave him a huge smile to his astonishment. He might never know that I could have been the villain in his life. But I still dont know whether he used a fake age record.
Should we allow the children to choose to work while we think that they should be going to school?
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