Children – The building blocks of each nation

I saw him lying half awake under a push cart. His tender and fragile face told me that something must be keeping him up at night, something must have bothered him at such an early age when other children his age don’t have to carry the weight of the world. I was going to have a series of sleepless nights where the image of that boy would haunt me. Here I lay in a neatly made bed, my hunger satisfied with home cooked food and a hum of air conditioning, thinking of that boy. He asked me how many children like this there are in my town and in the entire nation. The image of him-scantily clad with his body left at the mercy of blood-sucking insects-contrasted with the eternal bliss in which he lived was more disturbing. I was trying hard not to think about the boy; Fortunately, office duties allowed me to be easy on myself for a while.

I could not erase the image of the child from my thoughts for days in a row. Every time I came across children of the same age I thought of him. For me it represented the poverty of society and the indifference towards the future generation. We are so lost in the maddening crowd and so caught up in the race of life to stand out, pause and reflect.

When we are deeply involved in the thoughts of succession in the workplace and economic or social development, we leave it to governments to take care of other things and we don’t even think for a minute about who would address the core problems of poverty, lack of services basic civic. and even basic education for children? These incidents made me look further and think how one could take responsibility for these problems and work on them instead of worrying seeing children seen on the streets begging or being flogged accused of stealing. They are deprived of their childhood; their dreams crushed under child labor and exploitation as sex workers. Basic education and a healthy life are their fundamental rights, but who will fight for their cause?

Do you know that there are *an estimated 158 million children aged 5-14 doing child labor in India, one in every six children in the world is child labour? Millions of children are involved in dangerous situations or conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture, or working with dangerous machinery. They are everywhere but invisible, working as domestic servants in homes, plowing behind shop walls, on plantations hidden from public view.

* Nearly 13 percent of all children in South Asia are involved in child labour, equivalent to around 44 million. Of these children, 29 million live in India, where the child labor rate is 12 per cent. Within India itself, there are wide discrepancies between states in the incidence of child labour, ranging from 32 per cent in Gujarat to 3 per cent in Goa and Kerala.

If these children are the future, who will turn them into strong pillars that support the very existence of our nation?

With these lingering thoughts, my friends and I sit down to share our concern over some Chai cookies. I realized that even they shared similar concerns and ideas on the same topic. Many of the like-minded friends volunteered to help for this cause and wanted to spend time and effort to make a difference in the lives of these underprivileged children. But that was not all. This was a temporary fix. What happens when we have transformed our lives growing professionally and personally with a change from Chai cookies to green tea and cookies as a sophisticated social being? What would happen when this passion and concern is simply extinguished like every other interest in our life due to job and personal qualifications?

This is a question that each and every citizen of this country or any nation facing similar development problems must address in order to create a harmonious and equitable society and develop a sustainable solution for the future.

Numerous NGOs are emerging that work for the development of this disadvantaged sector of society with the support of international agencies to mainly provide education and other fundamental rights. For example, Paatshala, an NGO that involves young people in building a better tomorrow. A well-designed model for public-private partnership (PPP) would do wonders for the growth of any developing nation. Perhaps the first step in taking responsibility is to collaborate with such NGOs to create a better social and economic environment and a school of thought for the younger generation to flourish and grow.

(*Data collected from UNICEF statistics on child labor in South Asia)

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