All That Glitters Is Not Gold!
Unseen they suffer, Untired they cry. In agony they linger, In silence they die!
Glossy eyes but a gloomy future. Life is lackluster. What an agony. Reeling in poverty, yarn and needle are his mates. This is all nine years old - Chottu. Many young boys have lost their childhood in the spanking and splendid shades of zari brocades. The glittering zari art that has bewitched many now employs the maximum number of children as laborers. And so the haute couture has earned a dubious distinction. This traditional art has been thriving in the lanes of national capital for centuries. Devoid of education, these children work almost all the day in dingy workshops in pathetic conditions. On the flip side, the irony is that many artists are struggling for survival. They usually work on nominal wages for such an elegant art. As a result, however some are now running tea stalls or looking for other trades for livelihood. Therefore, a somber shift in work force is obvious. Such newcomers are in. And why not? Child labor is comparatively cheap. They are usually paid not more than Rs.20 a week while a full fledged artist gets Rs.60 per nafri (8 hours).These children work on strands as trainees. However, an artist admits- “Young children constitute an important part in this industry, today .They are frequently asked to bring prerequisites for embroidery stitching. And they fetch water twice a day.” Needless to say, that these children get selective abuses at the end of the day. On the pretext of punishment the bosses sometime go violent. Ironically, this work produces an adverse effect on their physique. Loss of vision due to excessive strain is common. Way back in 1997, UNICEF had registered a case against few workshop owners. But the situation has worsened further as the case was pushed onto the backburner. However, the National Sample Survey (NSS) in a study revealed that nearly 50 million children under 13 are employed in different trades. Delhi has close to a thousand embroidery workshops while most of the children engaged are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. They are brought in to teach a skilled art, promising better future prospects and a rewarding career. About 100 children were rescued in addition to 500 in November, last year. But these are the occasional drives by Delhi police and Labor Department. Factories Act 1948 and Delhi Shops and Establishment Act 1954 deal with the prohibition of employment of children under 14 in hazardous and unhygienic trades and industries. Moreover, article 309 of the Indian Constitution is amended under the directives from National Human Rights Commission to safeguard the rights of children. And now a Parliamentary Committee for children is constituted to help those in distress, focusing on their education and welfare as well. Unfortunately, such agonizing tales go on. For these Chottus
Children’s Day or Human Rights Day have nothing to do with it. Abject poverty isn’t alone to blame. The system is equally responsible too. But, these children are yearning to go back to fun and frolic!
- By Muntazir Abbas
Reviewed & Abstract: Phiroze Aaron