There couldn’t be a more opportune moment for remembering millions of children who toil in cotton fields, brick making Bhatta, construction industry, roadside dhabas and restaurants and above all, houses of the the elites.
Restoring Childhood ought to be the first priority of any civilized nation. Nobel peace prize to Mallala and Kailash satyarthi is a testimony that global conscience can’t not be kept unpricked any longer.
How to do address this complex problem and are there some solutions that can be tried in the short and long run.
Honey bee Network had the opportunity last year to take several Initiatives through a partnership with ILO India office.
We organized a summer school for students of technology from all over the country at sristi to explore opportunities for eliminating child labor. Details are available at http://www.sristi.org/nochildlabour/ showing how much difference could be made just in a month. If 35 students could tackle at least a few problems and take the resolution a few steps ahead, how much more could be done if thousands of students are challenged to address these problems on priority as apart of pedagogy for inclusive innovations.
We have all seen sugarcane juice extracting mills on hand carts or in shops. Generally when a sugarcane is put for squeezing first time, a child is standing on the other end to handover the partly squeezed cane back to the operator fir second squeeze.
A group of students came out with an idea to put just a curved tin sheet at the other end do that the cane bends upward due to the curve of the sheet. Operator can hold it and pull it for second squeeze. Child labor is no more needed.
Similarly, many people might have observed that palm leaves are beaten by poor workers including children and women on a wooden pls is having nails to make fiber out of it. These fibers are then bundled together into a broom.
Another group led by Raghunath lohar made a pedal operated machine and then another one made it smaller, even motor operated to reduce drudgery. Mansukhbhai’s innovation if cotton stripper for 797 variety of dry land cotton has almost eliminated child labor from cotton stripping function. But in other activities of irrigated cotton, child labor problem still remains. Farmers have to take a vow and so also the state and market so that those children are in school rather in the field bypassing education.
General principle seems to be that so long as productivity is low, child labor can not be removed from any task. Improve productivity, affordability and reliability and the child labor is eliminated. I m not saying that technology alone can address the problem. But I am indeed saying that children can be saved from labor with the help of technology which eliminates the tasks engaging them or Improves productivity of those tasks or/and improves income of parents to enable them to go school.
We need to decide whether Indian aspiration to become a world power will ever be realized without getting rid of such blemishes in our social fabric.