Radha peered from behind the wall, her eyes like two brown orbs, filled with wonder. Today was her day. A day she awaited all the 7 years of her existence. Today, Maa won’t tell her to wash dishes and Bapa won’t ask her to help him in the garage. Today, she will not have to stoically bear

the drudgery of working in a parlous factory to earn a meagre wage. Looking at the mirror, Radha admired her reflection with awe—red ribbons adorned her glossy pigtails and a blue bag, filled with books, sat on her shoulders. She straightened her crisp uniform one last time before running off to school. Today, she would receive the greatest gift of education.

Scared, lonely, hungry, hands set to work, waiting for a ray of hope to come. But, maybe it’s not coming…

33 million children (aged 5-18) around India face this problem.

33 million.

That is the number of children who have tasted the worst kind of prejudice: 33 million children have their rights trampled and stowed away; 33 million children may never be able to get an education; 33 million children may never be able to take full advantage of opportunities.

This is a problem that has taken India by storm. Whether it is the Chotu at the chai-stall or the 12-year-old Aarti that sweeps floors in Ms Kapoor’s flat; they are all victims of this social evil.

Child Labour.

These words connote a veritable monster that seems to take everything away from children—their books, their toys, their innocence—as though devouring childhood bit by bit.

It pains me to see that when we, fortunate children, moan for waking up for school in the morning, other children have been up hours before and are working in unhealthy environments to support their family.

Wages to labourers cover a large part of a firm’s costs and so in order to lower their costs, firms employ children as they are cheaper! Firms proudly reach the top of the charts by offering low prices and high quality, but extinguish the light in the heart of humankind’s most vulnerable resource—children—as they gallop their way up the mountain of success. Poverty stricken children, on the other hand, want to work as they are drawn by the dreams of a better life, thus falling prey to the firms’ well mapped plans.

However, just like all problems, this problem also has solutions. Firstly, I believe all citizens must be vigilant and if they notice any child labourer, quickly report the employer. Secondly, stringent rules must be set and exercised efficiently by government, against firms employing child labourers. The government must also ensure that poor children are supported and given free education and meals, however, these procedures must also be monitored strictly as the subsidy should reach the beneficiaries only. NGO’s also play a key role in eradicating such problems, for instance, Child Rights and You (CRY) is a striking example and has worked endlessly for the welfare of children.

Children are the pillars of our country and if the pillars remain weak, then the edifice of the country cannot be held strongly. We must all join hands and take an oath to make India a better, safer and more beautiful place for children to live in.

Ria Malhotra, (15 years), student of Podar International School, Mumbai.

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