About two weeks back I saw these kids near Vashi Bus Depot in Navi Mumbai. They were selling balloons in front of a very famous restaurant. When I asked them whether I could take their picture with what they were selling, they readily and enthusiastically agreed. I took their picture and showed them. Instantly one of them instructed rest of the others to stand properly and told me “Didi vapas lo” (take the picture again).
Their beautiful innocent faces got very well captured in this Click. However it also in some way tell us their everyday struggle for survival. All these kids do not go to school and spend their time earning money out of selling
balloons near Vashi Bus Depot. The boy in the yellow t-shirt – Manoj (pseudo name) introduced himself and rest of group members. One of them is his sister and the other two are his cousins (mother’s sister kids). Manoj’s
mother succumbed to burn injuries about a year back and there after his Masi (Aunt) has been taking care of him and his sister. Manoj has migrated from a village in Maharasthra to Navi Mumbai. His family circumstances forced him to leave education and start working.
Manoj said “hum jab gao mein the, hum school jaate the….yaha toh hume kamana patda hai nuh” (when we
used to stay in village, we both used to go to school but here we have to earn).
A child does not ever enter the labour market; she gets pushed into the same. When a child is not found in a school, she is not only out of a school but also some where working. She is either selling some goods item or working for someone or at home taking care of a younger sibling. In nutshell, when out of school, child thus ends up doing all the labour/work which in an ideal world she shouldn’t be doing. Some children go to school and also engage in work. In that case the time children spend in school is the time where in some way their childhoods are protected.
The 7th All India Education Survey (2002) reveals there are about 17 Million child labourers in India. I am sure each child has a unique heartbreaking story to voice to the world.
Manoj has aspirations to ‘fatafat’ (rapidly) make money so that he could return to his village. Waving them good bye I was left with questions: Will Manoj ever make it back to his native village? Will Manoj and his sister ever re-enroll in their school or a school in Mumbai? Will Manoj ever study and make a living the way he wants or gradually get absorbed in unorganized work force of Mumbai City.
Poverty, deprivation, lack of access to facilities and provisions for education, food insecurity and ever growing inflation are some of the major deep rooted issues which needs to be constantly combated and tackled in order to ensure that our every child enjoys her/his rights and thus their precious childhood. At a structural level there is still an ample need to invest further in proper infrastructural facilities and constantly assessing quality parameters and learning outcomes to that we ensure every child get quality education. There is a dire and constant need to advocate for millions of children of our country in order to promote the systemic change that is utmost essential in advancing the rights of children and fulfilling a dream of every child’s rights being fully restored in a true spirit.
Anuja Kastia Shah, Associate General Manager, Policy, CRY – Child Rights and You