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Child hunger without labour!



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This is in response to Mr. Sujit De's letter titled "Cost of child labour" (June 11) which is very humanitarian, but not a bit practical.


Just outside our residential complex is a rickshaw stand. Whenever I cross that area, my heart is pained on seeing a 15-16 year old boy toiling as a rickshaw puller. So when obtain to travel a long distance, I religiously avoid the service of this boy as my "conscience" would hurt if I "enjoy" his labour.


But not all think so. Without a bit of hesitation, many people use his rickshaw. But at the end of the day, the hard reality is that due to those "heartless" fellows, the boy gets something to eat! If all society was as "compassionate" as me, the boy would have starved following mass avoidance of his rickshaw!


It is bizarre to think that parents of all child labourers are unemployed! So, if the adults are recruited in place of the children, the former can earn wages/salaries and the latter can go to school! But the reality remains that innumerable poor people themselves work as labourers or menial hawkers. Far from educating their children, they can't even ensure two meals for the whole family. So by sheer compulsion, and to douse the fire of hunger, the hapless parents find no alternative but to land their children in the ruthless labour market.


If one fine day the State prohibits (in practical terms) all forms of child labour (from industries to commercial establishment to the domestic sphere), but without caring to bear the responsibility for the


children! Or the "conscience" of the whole society wakes up one fine morning and all refrain from sponsoring all forms of child labour! Would the wages of the cart puller father increase by magic, and he can transfer his child from labour market to school or provide him adequate food! Just like truth is stranger than fiction, practical realities of life are infinite times tougher than mere theories, which can be framed or showered upon all from the comforts of homes in full stomach! Innumerable child labourers are either orphans or victims of trafficking. Some child's father or widowed mother may be sick and unfit for work. Without the patronage of the State or the "conscientious" brigade, they get compelled to be domestic helps or service boys in hotels running errands for the management or guests. Now with a total ban on child labour, which "parent" (they are up above in heaven or detached) or "affectionate uncle" will provide him/her even a loaf of bread! Won't they simply die of hunger?


And this practical cruelty of life simply elude our "conscientious" brigade who try to perceive/project themselves as residing on a "higher moral scale" than those recruit poor children as domestic helps in comparatively humane environments; or stress that if child labour is banned point blank, without the State coming in aid of them, those poor children already in dire straits will further land in the absolute state of hunger --- literally.


KAJAL CHATTERJEE


Kolkata


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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