SUJIT DE, KOLKATA
PRAVIN U Sardessai must be congratulated for his letter ‘Protecting children’s rights’ (NT, July 9, 2018). His letter reminds me of an incident that helped me understand the myth of child labour. His eatery gave Bimal da (name changed) a good business. Once he was asked why he had employed so many child workers. Pat came his reply in the form of a question, “Then who will give these poor children bread? Will you?” We thought Bimal da was right so with clear conscience, we had our lunch promptly served by a pair of small hands of a child waiter. I asked him his name and he softly said, “Bilu” without shifting his focus from the tray full of steaming hot dishes that he had been carrying with utmost care to keep them down on different tables. Then one day, I read in a newspaper that Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi said, “Poverty does not breed child labour but it is the child labour that perpetuates poverty.” He again reiterated that child labour perpetuated poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and population growth. “How can it be possible?” I asked myself as I had the myth – child labour must be a corollary of poverty – deeply embedded in me. Nevertheless, I started thinking about what would have been the outcome had Bimal da failed to employ child workers for his eatery. Then I realised that he would not have any other option in that case but to employ adult workers. Also, he would have to pay more for those adult workers. So, his engaging Bilu and others was nothing but to extract more profit! Moreover, if Bilu happened to become ‘unemployed’, his parents might not let him stay idle at home rather they would in all probability send him to a school to fend for his midday meal! Indeed, Satyarthi has broken a longstanding myth. Given almost half (47.6 per cent) of the employable persons of our country are unemployed, every child’s entry into the job market actually closes the job opportunity of an adult.