Day in and day out, for various reasons, children, the most loveable and innocent lot, are found missing. Most of them fall in wrong hands in the prosperous pockets. Parents of such unfortunate offsprings only can feel as to where it pinches and how it pinches. Needless to say, due to them a number of professions and industries thrive, such as, Bidi and Fire Cracker, flesh trade, restaurants, hotels and what not. Films have not only taken a cue but have also highlighted the phenomenon, apart from minting money from such themes. Owing to feudal nature of our social system, most of us did not even realize if there was some violation somewhere till same was pointed out, till public interest litigation by an interested person led to some Court order or ruling.
Having realized the gravity and enormity of the situation, the Supreme Court has issued detailed guidelines on 14/11/2002 in Writ Petition No. 610 of 1996 (Horilal vs.C.P.,Delhi).It led to setting up of a special Cell on the issue in CBI and constitution of a Committee in NHRC in 2007 which also issued a series of guidelines relating to missing persons desks in police stations, inspection of the places employing children by the Dist.administration, mandatory reporting within 24 hrs to the NCPCR, active involvement of Punchayati Raj bodies and Municipalities, Resident Welfare Associations, and NGO’s, focused reporting by the media, regular sharing of information by the states, etc.
Despite meetings, conferences and reviews the issue of missing children continues to be grave. In view of the fact that it is also a human rights issue, it should be considered so by all the stakeholders-Government at all the levels, NGO’s or society at large. The number of children engaged as domestic help and bonded/child labour, afterall, is mind boggling, while conviction rate in identified cases is not even 1%.
Simply reporting is not important. They have to be traced, guided or educated and then rehabilitated. There is also an immediate need to pinpoint run away children, those found abandoned, neglected children and the vulnerable category found roaming at melas, traffic junctions, bus stands and railway stations. Last named group, invariably lands up in illegal factories and brothels.
In this depressing backdrop it is heartening to note that Sri Kailash Satyarthi, Indian Child Activist and Ms. Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani teen activist are going to be jointly awarded the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 for their laudable works on promoting child rights in the "troubled sub-continent"'. K.S., a former Electrical Engineer from Vidisha in M.P.is running an NGO-Bachpan Bachao Andolan" since 1980 for rescuing children from forced labour and trafficking. Malala,the youngest ever person to get the award survived a devastating Taliban attack two years ago. She has been advocating education for girl child side by side pursuing her own school studies in Birmingham ,U.K.
The jury of the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee has felt that “the prize was to be awarded to both for their struggle against supression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.’’ In addition, the Committee is of opinion that Satyarthi has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and has headed various forms of peaceful protests. Satyarthi, whose NGO has reportedly rescued over 80,000 children from forced labour and trafficking, has reacted by saying that this global recognition would encourage him into further action to try and eliminate child slavery.
It is a matter of strange coincidence but pride that two luminaries from the sub-continent have been chosen for a common prize at a time when ties between the two neighbours have touched a low point. Rather, intermittent firing from across the border has affected 700 houses in three border Districts of J&K. Needless to say, children and senior citizens are the worst affected lot.
It is equally perplexing to note that Malala, who was nominated for the same prize in 2013 when her wounds were still fresh and thereby she was not in a position to muster enough courage and conviction to address a world gathering ,has not done anything substantial in one year ,yet her claim to fame this year became much more stronger.
Thirdly, since the prize is proposed to be given jointly, it would be unfair to equate Satyarthi's long struggle in his field to the "beginning" just made by the youngster. There are many other unsung and unreported young heroes and heroines like her ,but,but,but........ Idea is ,nonetheless, neither to ignore her trauma nor belittle her acts of bravery, subsequent to the lethal attack on her head and shoulder. She could survive in a situation wherein the phrases mercy and compassion are not supposed to be heard .Do justice in the name of Jehad, kill innocent people for tiny issues ,such is the slogan of the self proclaimed agents of God.
But for an anonymous diary in the form of a blog published between January and March,2009 on BBC Urdu,this heroine of a Pashtun folk tale would not have attracted any public attention. She is supposed to have indicated how girls were made to struggle for getting education in the Taliban controlled Swat Valley.She would speak her mind freely and fearlessly.
It is not that the women and children in this beautiful valley are suppressed more than their counterparts in Afghanistan but the latter, one supposes, donot have any courageous spokesperson of the kind of Malala. Strangely, otherwise immune and ineffective Govt.of Pakistan not only provided her the best medical treatment in the country and abroad ,it also conferred the National Peace Award on her prior to her being nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize.
To sum up, suffering of the children in general and those who languish in bondage in the brick kilns, stone kilns, roadside eateries, cottage industries as also the “decent families” is likely to be better heard and responded to with the announcement of this years Nobel Prize. Satyarthi, an activist of three decades has rightly stated that it is a curse on the face of the humankind that children are born in such a state of tension and violence.When will the estimated 16 Crore children get liberated ,we need to ask ourselves.It is certainly a blot on the country, if not only on humanity.
Talking of facts and figures,it is after a long gap of 35 years that an Indian ,after Mother Teresa has been chosen for his work not exactly on peace but against a sustained activity that has propensity to disturb peace. Yet the majority do not bother as long as they can avail of the comforts and pleasures of life at the cost of little children.
Mahatma Gandhi was nominated more than once for the Prize but was never conferred. So Satyarthi is perhaps right in saying that “Had it gone to the Mahatma before me ,I would have been more honoured”.