The Lost Innocence

The Heartbreaking Reality of Child Labour and Exploitation
"If a child were weeping on the streets, compassionate men and women would stop to help locate their missing parents or help."
"If a child were weeping on the streets, compassionate men and women would stop to help locate their missing parents or help."Special arrangement

June 12 was World Day against Child Labour, and it breaks my heart to hear the news of dozens of children being rescued in an anti-begging drive in Srinagar this week.

It also disheartens when one reads crime against children witnessed an upward trend in Kashmir. The officials said to Greater Kashmir that most of the cases were serious, including abduction, kidnapping, and sexual abuse. Crimes against children saw over a 39 per cent jump last year.

It is just an iota of what must be happening across Jammu and Kashmir with the orphans, missing children. The current situation is scary, with children as young as eight involved in begging, even at the behest of their parents.

It reminds me of my childhood in Kashmir. Back then, whether inside or outside school, numerous helping hands would magically appear to provide food and support whenever a child was hungry or in difficulty.

If a child were weeping on the streets, compassionate men and women would stop to help locate their missing parents or help. It was a community that cared. Back then, even a rumour of a foreign child lifter led to the lynching of the suspect in Srinagar.

However, reading the screeching news item in Greater Kashmir about the 15 children rescued in the anti-begging drive; Crime against children witnessed an upward trend makes me deeply saddened.

Even more distressing is that some parents even ask their children to beg when they should be in school. It is disheartening to witness this decline in the society that once ensured no one remained hungry or slept on the streets. The situation is turning dire, and it is alarming to learn that the department has identified over 280 children in street situations throughout the Union Territory.

The government has taken some steps towards rehabilitation by introducing the Mission Vatsalya scheme, aimed at building a protective environment for children. However, these policies must not be merely confined to paper. The department should highlight the stories of successfully rehabilitated children to raise awareness and garner support from the masses and volunteers.

On a global scale, it is estimated that 160 million children are still trapped in child labour, which accounts for almost one in ten children worldwide. Many of these children endure dangerous conditions and face a bleak future. Society must recognize the link between social justice and the eradication of child labour.

Furthermore, it is eye-opening to discover that there are 21 childcare institutions in the Srinagar district, of which five are government-run, and 16 NGOs operate.

However, it is shocking to find out that 10 of these institutions were working without proper registration, and one even failed to meet the required standards and had to be shut down.

The government needs to crack down on such institutions and investigate whether these institutions mean care of innocent children or are just minting money, taking advantage of the government schemes.

The government and society need to be more vigilant, considering how vulnerable children and women in dire situations are forced into labour or even trafficked.

Recent news reported the rescue of 12 children from an unregistered orphanage, which is now under the custody of the Child Welfare Committee.

The authorities must maintain strict regulations, and any institute that fails to comply with the registration process should face legal consequences. Also, the staff hired in these institutions need to be regularly verified.

Economic hardships often drive families to push their children into labour, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and injustice. Roughly 160 million children were subjected to child labour at the beginning of 2022, and the impact of COVID-19 has put an additional 9 million children at risk. Almost 1 in 10 children worldwide are trapped in child labour, with nearly half engaged in hazardous work.

Child labour has dire consequences for children, resulting in severe physical and mental harm, even risking their lives. It exposes them to slavery and various forms of exploitation, including sexual and economic exploitation. Moreover, child labour denies children access to education and healthcare, depriving them of fundamental rights.

Migrant and refugee children, who have often been displaced due to conflict, disaster, or poverty, face additional risks of being forced into labour or trafficked, mainly when they migrate alone or take irregular routes with their families.

Trafficked children tolerate violence, abuse, and violations of their human rights. Girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, while non-state actors can exploit boys, involving them in armed forces or groups.

Child soldiers suffer from extensive exploitation and abuse. They are utilized not only as combatants but also for various support roles, such as scouts, cooks, porters, guards, and messengers.

Gender-based violence is prevalent, primarily affecting girls in these situations. Children join armed forces or groups for different reasons, including abduction, threats, coercion, manipulation, poverty, or a desire to protect their communities.

It is crucial to take immediate action and highlight the stories of successfully rehabilitated children to bring attention to this grave issue so that our community once again rally together to support and care for distressed children and keep such unfamiliar words and acts away from the valley.

Author is a regular contributor to GK

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir