Oye chotu ….

Very often in our day to day life, we get a chance to fall upon a person we know and call as chotu. We can find him at a roadside dhaba serving hot tea and washing plates, or at a cycle shop repairing the punctures of our vehicles, or near a bus stop selling balloons. I had a chance to stumble upon one such chotu, the same day when I went to a nearby village for my photojournalism assignment. I inquired him about his name, work, on whether he studies. He replied that he stopped his studies about 2 years back and since then has been working at the cycle repair shop.

I decided to look into issue of these chotus in more detail. Upon some basic research, I learned that the government of India in the year of our lord 2009 passed a bill which grants right to free and compulsory education to every single child in the country. There is another law which prohibits child labor. It states that children below the age of 14 should not be indulged in any hazardous physical work. There are some other provisions too, such as the mid-day meal scheme to provide an incentive to the children to go to school.

Inspite of all these measures, it has been estimated that about 12.6 million children (2001 census) in India are indulged in one or the other forms of child labor. The reasons might be plenty, there were no schools, there were schools but no teachers, the children were forced to work by their parents, they worked because they wanted cheap and easy source of making money and so on.

But the consequence of all these reasons is that without proper education and guidance, chotu has a very bleak future in this competitive world. The only option chotu will have after getting older is to continue the work in a similar field that he has been doing. Without skills such as English literacy and technical aptitude, securing higher skilled jobs is impossible and coming out of poverty would remain a distant dream.

To keep an economy prospering, a vital criteria is to have an educated workforce equipped with relevant skills for the needs of the industries. The young laborers today, will be part of India’s human capital tomorrow. Child labor undoubtedly results in a trade-off with human capital accumulation.

I believe India will truly be a developed country when we wouldn’t find chotus in the dhabas, cycle repair shops or bus stops but they would be in a place that would make them able to live a life of their choice. A place where these kids get an opportunity to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically. A place called SCHOOL.


Posted on October 6, 2012, in Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I think same is the case with our (IIT Hyderabad) mess. Since the start of this semester (August), I have spotted two ‘Chhotus’ in our mess.
    Emphasizing on the fact that India still has huge amount of diversity in terms of geography and economy, the latter being the more significant factor responsible for increasing child labor. But cursing the economy and accidents won’t help in reducing the pain these children have to go through unless a promising spark really promises to promise something to these young lives. The problem with this ‘spark’ is a lot of people talk about it but very few actually go on and do something. Unless the ‘common people’ don’t understand the problems faced by ‘the common people’ and take a step forward (it can be very small step!) , we will keep on hearing about such articles and posts.
    There is a lot less the politicians in this country give a shit( mind me for the expression but this fits the most) about other than money and caring about their own families. The sad part is very few from the well educated(I don’t refer to degree here) community do anything about it. While some are busy fighting with REAL problems, majority of the youth of India is busy squandering and is well ignorant about the major issues which can really halt India’s supposed growth. It takes a great deal of courage and determination to come out the ‘Physical Comfort Zone’ and understand the real pain unless you personally experience it. Whatever maybe the reason but most of the people don’t prefer to come out of their comfort zones and act upon it and you may agree we are no exception to it!

    • Sad but true. People (me included) are too happy in the comfort zones. The ‘spark’ that you mentioned can be easily seen in our bakaiti sessions but then we leave it as soon as the discussions end. If someone is willing to do anything at all for these problems, just the magnitude and the diversity (here it is geographical) refrains him from thinking upon these lines. While writing the post, I thought of sharing some measures on how could people or the government act to curb this problem. I couldn’t get far.
      As for our parts, I doubt that inspiration and commitment would remain for long at an individual level but at an group level, say strengthening NSS in colleges and CSR in corporates would lead to some change in the scenario. Again, I think movements like TFI along with the support of the government will have a larger part to play if they focus on the rural areas where 70% of the the child labor population is concentrated. These collective efforts from individuals,NGOs and corporate might see these problem come down.
      Another very important thing is that merely opening the opportunities education is not of much use if the standards remain as they are in present scenario. The employment opportunities for a normal graduate are reducing day by day. Today, even if a child gets a decent education, the increasing higher education cost would restrict him to fall back.
      The problem is way tougher than it seems!!

  2. I was also once doing some research on child labor, India tops the number of children employed as child labourers according to UNO. Sad but true and all this in blatant violation of all the laws, something I am gearing up to protect ;).

    • All the very best lady. I sincerely hope that you create a difference in the life of as many chotus’ as you can. Even I am reading up a little of public policy these days. Hope to take up this issue sometime in the future.

      • I had 2 months free well still am and I tried volunteering for ngos especially for spoken english, law is for 5 years so we gotta slog more time than normal people. Thy clearly said that you have to be a graduate without even testing me on my spoken english akills. In this regard, the better thing is teach india where they have a round of interviews before they clear you for teaching but they ask for 100 days somehting I didn’t have. But I still remember once I was passing by my maid’s slum, that I was so moved by what I saw, I wrote about it. It was the funniest thing, no toilets but three temples haha

  3. Someone actually knocked you off just because you weren’t a graduate. Strange. I don’t quite understand the correlation between being a graduate and speaking english fluently.
    Teach for India is actually a 2 year program. A lot of commitment from ones side is required to sign up for something like this.
    More temples than toilets, well people can let go the sanitation facilities anyday, but they want their god to be as close as possible. Again, a very strange thing.

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