Monday, June 12, 2006

The Fact of the Matter is...

Child Labour indeed exists.
However, to acknowledge the silver lining, THIS also exists.

Apologise for the poor quality of pictures. Shot through my mobile phone, so there are inherent limitations. Often, I had to shoot in near complete darkness where the children sat on the ground, stacking match sticks.

For the rest of the pictures, click here!



Blogger hari said...


Child labour does exist and will exist so long as irresponsible and selfish parents exist.

Sorry to be crude but there are still parents who labour only to produce child and thereafter leave the child to labour for themself as well as their parents.

Let us not blame the match factories and cracker manufacturers alone. How can they get the child unless the parents sell them for as low as Rs. 1000/-.

Its indeed a brave effort from Vanishree. My salutations to her. But to hit at the roots we should educate the irresponsible parents that the children they give birth to are their responsibility and not an investment or asset to be pledged and liquidated anytime they want.

4:06 pm

Blogger Inder said...

This is a complex problem. Government should strictly implement the law to punish parents who send their children to work. To prevent the parents from sending their children to work, goverment should introduce something like social security and child care. Implementing social security in a heavily populated country like ours is not a joke. It requires tons of money. The people would go wild if the government increases taxation to collect money.

It is a catch 22 situation.

9:42 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

my God Ramya!
this is really know, there are only a few scenes in tamil movies that moved me tremendously...and all those had children in such situations (kadhal kondein, ghazini and the other i cant remember...where a child thats leased out to beg dies of hunger...) I remember coming back and hugging my kid closer...but doesnt every parent feel that way? Isnt it more imp to tackle that which drives them to farm out their kids for a few hundreds? On one hand, there are countries where it is unlawful to so much as smack one's own child...and there are others which turn a blind eye to exploitation...i wish there was something i could do...
ps - sorry,i'm getting all senti...and left this too l-o-n-g message.

12:25 am

Blogger Sriram said...

I am Jack's complete disappointment.

4:25 am

Blogger RUMS said...

When Child Rights and You advertises that we can seek their help everytime we find children being harassed, why don't more people make use of it? The volunteers at CRY seem to think that most of these children work because they don't have an aptitude to study, and if you're just going to feed a child and not make him recognise his skills, you're making a lazy person out of him. Some children prefer working over studying, but again, its hard to tell if they enjoy what they're doing. As long as it qualifies as dignified work that can promise a future, i dont think we should worry too much. The flower girl could become a florist, the weaver could become a handloom dealer... only, if we let them really master their skill?

10:56 am

Blogger journovoice said...

I am not an expert on child labour, but i have worked closely with the people who are at the grass roots, trying to mobilise children, the communities around them, the government and NGOs to take this battle against child labour to its Waterloo. With us being the Duke of Wellington, of course.

The root of the issue is that 'child labour' is not a system developed to keep children down. In Gudiyatham it is seen just as another income generation scheme. Children are available as an extra hand to roll beedies. In fact, the beedis bring better prices because the tiny, delicate fingers of the children close them better. And also, there is a saving of the cost of schooling.

You say education is free. But the uniforms, the books, the pencils and the other paraphrenalia, as well as the added cost of 'keeping up with the Joneses' does not come cheap. As they say in Physics, in child labour the child is no longer a 'sink' but a 'source'. But at what cost?

At the cost of childhood.

3:44 pm

Blogger RefleXtion said...

Another impossible puzzle like trying to solve poverty....then again if the rich countries don't have child labour how come we do?? I do have an answer to this question...its hidden but it's have more people in India so it's more visible.

5:43 pm

Blogger Shobha said...

You have to be in Mumbai to know what child labour is. It is so sad that at the end of the day you become adept at escapism as there is no other go. Sigh... By the way Ramya, can I have your email id please?

9:03 am

Anonymous jammy said...

I think huge population is end-reason for child labour. If we all work towards cutting down on population...all of India's sorrows would be drowned

8:56 am

Blogger Mahadevan said...

To a great extent parents are responsible for child labour. At the same time there are numerous orphaned children who have no where to go. Availability of cheap labour is exploited by the match factories and Zari looms.

I liked the way you put it. "Parents labour to produce children and allow the children to labour.

6:21 pm

Blogger Ram said...

Couldnt help but stop and comment. Im glad to see that some opinions match with mine in that Child Labour has its own positives. Its seen just as another source of income by most like journovoice mentioned. Its just a natural thing for parents to do cos they havent even heard of the term 'Child Labour'.
When the child works, he's definitely developing skills. He has an income. There's some sort of routine and a way of living. When the child is saved, how long is he going to be helped on by the saviour? Education, a place to live, food ... all bourne by whom? How many organisations exist who do this and even collectively, do they have the resources to save and provide a better future for *every* child?
Save the children ... save those who are harassed, used and exploited. Not those who need be saved from nothing.

10:24 am

Blogger hari said...

Hi Ram,

You mean to say a child made to work and earn his bread at an age when he is supposed to play and learn to do better work in future, is not exploitation and harrassment?

Then what is child exploitation and harrassment? Is it Sending them to study and get educated and equipped to do better work and live in a better manner.

Sorry Mr.Ram, if you are labouring to produce a child just to earn some extra income out of that child, then such father is worst than a pimp.

11:22 am

Blogger None said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:28 pm

Blogger None said...

people, thanks for all the comments. but i must perforce reply first to ram.


Have you been denied an education, sent to a match factory, where you had to sit in a dark room with no ventilation and put matsticks in a box. And sometimes had the palms of your hand burnt as the matches rubbed against each other?

No? I think not.

My point is that you cannot have an elitist, non-involved approach to child labour.

Every child must be entitled to an education and the opportunity to choose a living for himself/herself.

We are not talking about A particular agency supporting the child for life. Have you heard of the saying, 'Teach a man to fish...?'

You equip a young person with skills that will allow him to make choices as he/she grows up into adulthood. He/she can decide not to make use of the education and elect to work in a match factory. That, sir, is exercise of free will.

At the core of child labour is poverty and the lack of access to quality education/school. In this particular instance, parents of girl children do not want their wards to take the single crowded town bus to school. So they put them on the bus the match factory owners send to each village.

You may not have followed the series that appeared on child labour. If you had, you might have discovered, perhaps to your surprise, that when given awareness and an alternative (viable economic) parents actually do NOT want to send their child to work. They want them to go to school, get an education.

To address child labour is not to look at the issue in isolation. It is to look at poverty, employment opportunities, access to schools and quality medical care in the villages of India.


thanks for that valiant rebuttal! Quite like you! :) Next time, I buy the aloo bondas!


3:39 pm

Blogger None said...


it is not a straight issue that can be resolved with a wave of the wand, no.
did i say that?! :)


yes, population is a HUGE issue. forgive my pun, but it is true that behind our bad human development indices is burgeoning population.


I don't quite agree with the Mumbai bit. child labour in any form is abhorrent. Wherever it happens.
Have you been inside an abattoir? A slaughter house? I have, in Chennai, and I've see kids wiping up the ofal from the blood drenched floor. the images are still in my head!
And my e-mail id is


It's poverty, R. And the lack of awareness. Perhaps, yes, our fatalism too. I wonder if you've read about the several children involved in hazardous labour in South America.

3:55 pm

Blogger None said...


thanks for your response. my experience too, like yours, is from interaction with child labourers and NGOs at the field level.
I agree with you completely. whether rolling beedis or stacking matches, kids are supposed to have nimble fingers. Also they can be ordered around, paid atrocious salaries and be abused regularly.
But like i said in my earlier comment, i'm happy to see that most parents actually prefer putting the kid in school, if the economic crisis is sorted out.

4:34 pm

Blogger None said...


idealistic, but we could sure do with a lot of that now! yes. it is all within us.


appadinaa? full petez,eh? :)


come down with the booty and i'll tell you what we can do! :)


8:44 pm

Blogger None said...


that was put crisply. punishment, but only after u introduce employment guarantee and provide quality education.


something in this comment reminded me that you wanted to meet kausalya. u still want to meet her?!


8:46 pm

Blogger hari said...

Vow Ramya,

Thats a great incentive to give valient comments.thanks i accept the offer.

And yes, I still want to meet Kausalya, there is a lot to draw inspiration from her.

12:02 am

Blogger Ram said...

:) ... well ... THAT attracted quite a response!
hari .. valiant rebuttal indeed but waaay off what im trying to say n i think ill jus pass trying to explain to you. we're not here to make personal insults to strangers ... at least I am not. im here to discuss something thats always seen only in a single light.
Ramya ... i think None is you, dint check ... "sent to a match factory, where you had to sit in a dark room with no ventilation and put matsticks in a box. And sometimes had the palms of your hand burnt as the matches rubbed against each other?" ... that IS harassment ... and so i agree with u on that.
lets talk about children who work in mechanic sheds, paan shops, grocery stores, building sites and canteens. that still IS child labour rt? still DOES deprive education rt? so thats within our sphere of discussion. there's no harassment here. now lets go upto these children ... most of whom have a small group of friends of sorts around them and dont really lack the frolic and fun of childhood completely ... lets go upto them and propose EDUCATION! you get to leave whats given to u everyday in pursuit of something u have never really heard of! wow! that IS something! see ... WE see the potential of it ... to them, it wud be a risk, if nothing else. to give up a way of living, for the word of a stranger, to take up education for years and to adopt a completely new way of life ... to ANYONE, to adopt a new way of life is gonna be a tough choice to make.
"To address child labour is not to look at the issue in isolation. It is to look at poverty, employment opportunities, access to schools and quality medical care in the villages of India."
agreed. u look at it in all these directions. but u gotta free that mind and think on different planes. if u adopt this policy to deal with child labour everywhere, then ul be causing more harm with the purest of intentions. did u ever think if the child really *wants* to be educated? wat r the factors that go into deciding that? we jus assume theyll be ok with it cos we wanna do a good deed. wat does 'education' give u anyway? in fact its only literacy we're talking about here. most illiterate ppl are more educated than us literates my dear.
the worlds gotta run ... everything cant be nice n dandy. think idealistic. but be realistic. cos the mind allows u a world where anything can happen. but reality gives u only one world ... and u know how it is.
many of these children are orphans. and their work is even more important to them ... do u really think theyll give a fleeting thought to a stranger who comes up n proposes education? the kid may, swept away by the tide of activity around him/her, jus give in to the decisions made by others by being 'saved'. but if u tried to explain the situation to them, and propose this as a better way of life, i reeeeally doubt that even half of it is gonna get thro to them! n then wat do u do? who r YOU to make a decision for them?
and about the resources bit .. i most def dint mean to ask who will support them for the rest of their lives. cmon ppl! give my sanity SOME credit! :) i meant jus the process of educating the kid ... takes quite a bit u know. it does ... sit down n think. allow yourself to think on those lines. think wat all will be a factor ... "education for the poor and deprived"! sure does swell your heart as a heading ... but lets deal with the details. not so complete ... not so attainable.
one glaring thought though ... how can u *deprive* a kid of education wen he has no means to it in the first place! education during childhood is a way of life for us better-off ppl. for them, work is the way of life. realise that.
jus out of curiosity ... who here has read the book Shantaram?

9:42 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well ramya...what i meant was...what would one do when one finds a kid selling pins, hair clips, bangles, hand kerchiefs, etc etc everyday in the trains? There are scores of children who do that. Even though they are not subjected to the torture, they still exist in large numbers. Most of them don't go to schools. Trains are my major mode of transport. How do I cope up with the daily occurance? Escapism is the answer. Otherwise it is pretty difficult to live in Mumbai. Yup, there exists NGOs like Akanksha, Mobile schools, CRY etc who help these kids read and learn. However, there are still scores of kids who just work for a living without going to schools and they are visible everywhere. The point I am trying to make is when such images become a vereyday affair then escapism become a defence mechanism.


P.S. Thanks for the mail id :)

8:44 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typos...I meant everyday affairs...


8:45 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ram: I am currently reading Shantaram. am half way through it.


8:50 pm

Anonymous Ram said...

very much wat im trying to say Shobha ... its so vast and such an everday occurance that nothing solid can be done about it really ...
and well ... there's this chapter on Child slave trade ... it kinda deals with this ... its very real and realistic ... made me think differently ...

7:57 pm

Blogger Shobha said...

Ram: We are both talking about different things. I don't think i will completely agree with you if you say nothing can be done about eradicating child labour. My comment was based on how I PERSONALLY deal with it everyday. Yup, it is a difficult and a complex issue but I personally feel that political will can bring about lots of changes.

I loved the book till now. I think Gregory Roberts is an amazing author. There are so many lines in the book that make you think...he writes beautifully.

11:59 pm

Blogger None said...


" how can u *deprive* a kid of education wen he has no means to it in the first place! education during childhood is a way of life for us better-off ppl."

i'm appalled!!!! if this is what you think, i'm afraid i have wasted my time trying to reason with you.
especially since you think change is not possible, go ahead and feel the retrograde thoughts ur entitled to feel. my road, sir, diverges where there is hope. goodbye.

12:04 am

Blogger None said...


no, i dint think you would agree with that. i like shantaram too, very much, but i find i have to labour through parts of it!


12:05 am

Blogger Ram said...

whats so very appalling Ramya? it totally escapes me ... educate me will ya? and wat about your reaction to the rest of what I said?
Im sorry I misinterpreted your comment Shoba. Glad you enjoyed the book. Its my personal fav and I too think Greg has a unique way with words.
Ramya ... change is possible. The only thing permanent in life itself, is change. In fact, its not a possibilty, its a certainty. But how far? Thats the question ...
Im not saying its a waste of time... working against Child Labour. Im saying there are loads of cases where the kid is jus fine doing what he/she is already doing. and so we have to take care not to harm that while, with the purest of hearts, we try and rescue them.
remove your mind block and read what im writing for. a journalist shouldnt have mind blocks. doesnt do good to those who read them ...

11:09 am

Anonymous Ram said...

24th June, Saturday there's a Chennai Bloggers' meet at Ascendas, Thiruvanmiyur. Would be nice to have you there.

1:37 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

neyar viruppam -
pudhu post please!

11:22 pm


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