Saturday, July 30, 2011


Last 3 days, I've been travelling. Had to go to Kolkota to make few major purchases for the hospital. Everytime I travel, there is some theme into which I get fixated on and try to explore its' various facets in the places I visit. As I left the hospital, I was wondering about the topic I would focus on my present trip. Well, it did not need much of thinking. I was drawn into one of the worst shames that developing nations have been forced into inspite of rapid strides of development happening in many of such countries especially India.

Child labour - I know there are people who try to justify the situations into which children get into by which their getting into work become imperative in the sustanence of the family. However, I just could not help not putting my view on the whole situation.

The first child whom I observed on the journey was someone who I'll called PP. We found PP sitting and washing dishes in the hotel in Kuru where we stopped for breakfast on the way from NJH to Ranchi. I tried to talk to him. But I was very much aware of couple of pairs of starring eyes from inside the hotel which gave me quite a fright. PP was quitely sitting and washing all our plates. However, I got a time to chit chat with him as I went out to wash hands. I asked him if he did not enjoy school. He told he had no other option as money was required in the family. And food being a scarce commodity at home, working in a hotel did wonders as there was plenty of leftovers in the evenings to take home. And, PP did not look malnourished. He was quite plump. But of course illiterate - maybe 10-12 years.

We were in a hurry - so could not ask more questions. Anyway, this route is quite a regular one for me and I plan to ask PP more about himself over the days.

As we stood waiting for our train in the station, we could see hordes of teenage boys who were waiting to jump into the unreserved compartments of the Howrah Express. All of them trying to make a living for themselves in the bustling alleys of Kolkota - the city of joy.

Once you reach Kolkota, I was quite taken aback by the fact that it was

mainly in restaurants, road side eateries and tea shops that child labour had a marked presence. Boys cleaning the tables and washing dishes were a common sight in almost all places of food or drink. I somehow managed to capture in picture a boy of maybe about 8 years cutting pototoes early in the morning before the Ezra street in Kolkota buzzles with activity.

It is not quite difficult to somehow make a connection between child labour and food/eating joints. Many of the families send their children to these places as there is assured food at the end of the day. I can understand this connection for all places except tea shops - however, the number of tea shops where I found child labour always had some amount of things to eat too.

I've heard about child labour in sweat shops, glass and carpet factories, but most of them happen without much notice - very discretely and behind heavy curtains. I get the feeling that the open existence of child labour in the unorganised fast food sector is an indication of lack of food security in quite a lot of families of our community. It is sad when families have to make their children work for the sake of food.

One more aspect of the children whom I found working in such food joints was that most of them looked quite healthy. Obviously, they were well fed at the end of the day. The question was about what they were eating. From the hotel where PP was working - it was not a place where you would want to eat for two consecutive days. Puris and vegetable dripping in oil and hydroxygenated fat laden and heavily sugared sweets ruled the roost. So, that could have accounted for PP's overweight if not obesity. I noticed it in many of the other eateries too. The only malnourished ones where in the Chai shops.

I know that I cannot make any inferences here. But, there is a wealth of insights to be extracted here about the lives of the a part of the futuof our country. Lives which are totally dependent on how to get food at the end of the day - I sometimes wonder about the values being instilled into them as they wait for the end of the day to get their portion of leftovers.

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