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.