It was a cloudy day in May when I entered office at 8.45 in the morning. As usual my colleague had already come in and was in the process of ordering the first tea of the day from a canteen in the next door office. I am an avid tea drinker and have numerous cups during the day. She ordered tea for both of us. But it was not the usual delivery boy. My colleague mentioned after a while that the delivery boy looked a bit too young to be working.
CRY has a Child Protection Policy the implementation of which I led. As soon as my colleague said that, my antenna started vibrating as one of the sections of the policy is that CRY employees should not accept services from any business hiring child labour (anyone who is under 18 years of age and working). So when the boy came to collect the cups, I asked him his age and he confessed he was still a minor. I asked for his documents to be sure, and he showed me his Aadhar card.
The next step I took was to immediately send an email to the entire office that they should settle the bills of the canteen and stop ordering from him. From the next day there were no orders going to him from the CRY office. I instructed the security to tell him the reason for the ban – the intention being that after a few days someone from our team working with child rights issues at the grassroots level would talk to the tea stall owner about the issue. I realised he needed to understand why we were doing this and that it was not an arbitrary decision. We also would have to explain to him why CRY believes that everyone under 18 is a child (as per the definition by United Nations) and should not be engaged in labour.
However, even before we could send someone to the stall, in a few days the owner came to office to meet me. It turned out that someone in office had told him not to hire minors a few months ago but he had not paid heed to it. He then assured me that he would not hire anyone under 18. I warned him that this was his last chance and the next time he violated the conditions, he would be banned permanently. He agreed and the ban was lifted with this stern warning. The CRY staff cooperated wholeheartedly during the ban.
“What I can do, I must do.” – I am glad I lived up to this saying by our late founder Rippan Kapur, that runs through the DNA of CRY to do my bit against child labour.
Chandrasekhar Ponda, General Manager, Human Resources & Business Support, CRY