Friday, April 10, 2015

We should be ashamed, not celebrating.

By now we all know that Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi have jointly won the most prestigious award – The Nobel Peace Prize.

The media went into a frenzy and people across both the countries celebrated this proud moment. But is this really a moment of pride for us?

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No, I’m not trying to demean their accomplishments. It takes immense courage and confidence to escape death and yet stand for your ideas and beliefs (Malala); while it takes highest amount of determination, selflessness and passion to devote your whole life to eliminate child labour.(Satyarthi). However, getting recognised for their efforts is their individual achievement. But as a nation we must hang our heads in shame.

The very fact that a person has to be awarded for showing courage to stand against the exploitation of children shows the despicable situation of our country and the state of apathy we live in. If we, as a nation, are unable to provide basic amenities & fulfill primary needs of our children and prevent their exploitation then what right do we have to celebrate? We have failed our kids.

Since decades both nations have spent Billions in fortifying their borders & fighting mindless wars with each other. Had we spent an equivalent amount on education and eradication of poverty, there wouldn't have been need for any man or woman to dedicate their life for these causes.

Satyarthi has freed over 80,000 children from various types of servitude and exploitation. The worrying fact is that this is just a fraction of the actual number of kids suffering across the country. Today, the condition of many of our country’s children has degraded to such an extent that they are being made to work as bonded labourers for meager or no wages, their limbs are amputated and are made to beg on streets, they are pushed into slavery & flesh trade, and even killed if they are no longer deemed useful. Most of these kids are orphans, abandoned, kidnapped or even sold by their parents owing to extreme poverty. On paper there are various schemes, policies and laws to prevent child-exploitation, but those are hollow without the will to implement it.

Over 325,000 children went missing in India since 2011. Around 45% of missing children are never found. And yet today we are celebrating & feeling proud of getting global recognition. Like always, there are debates and discussions about the deplorable condition of country’s children on news channels, in papers, at offices & homes.

But tomorrow, once again we shall silently ignore the kids sitting on roadside and begging for a coin,
We would ignore those little legs risking their lives by running in-between heavy traffic to sell balloons,
We will silently drink teas served by bruised little hands,
We would silently pass by the shops where we know kids are being made to work in inhumane conditions. We will hear their cries, yet keep walking as if we didn't hear a thing,
We will look away when we see kids in garbage bins searching for bottles and plastic,
We will turn a blind eye towards tiny fragile bodies that perform dangerous stunts in street circuses or whip themselves to earn a living.

And yet we are rejoicing that our countryman has won a Nobel. Apart from few such selfless social workers, there are rarely few who are contributing towards creating a society where henceforth there won’t be a need for a Satyarthi to devote his whole life trying to save children or a Malala to preach importance of education and knowledge.

Let’s ask ourselves, what we would do if these were our kids? The issue is that we don’t consider kids other than ours as even human beings, and hence this indifferent attitude. It’s time we do some serious introspection.

This article is written by Raju Verghese. Follow him on Facebook here.