Kailash Satyarthi, my friend the Nobel Laureate

Amod Kanth
Amod KanthDec 11, 2014 | 12:43

Kailash Satyarthi, my friend the Nobel Laureate

I have known Kailash Satyarthi as a friend and co-worker for 30 years now. He has been running the non-government organisation Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (BBA) for 28 years. It has been championing the cause of rescuing children from bonded labour, and I have been involved with Prayas that aids in rehabilitation and reform of homeless as well as destitute children for almost 26 years now. So, when it comes to protecting child rights, we are contemporaries.

I first met him when I was still in the Indian Police Service. He had just started out as a child rights activist. Since then, I have been an advisor to him and ardent supporter of child rights. Over the years, we have interacted more frequently for a variety of reasons owing to the common goals shared by Prayas and  BBA. This also includes workforce and rehabilitation programmes in areas such as education, healthcare and vocational training. Through its 240 centres and 40 homes, Prayas has provided shelter and reformed children rescued by the BBB on a regular basis. Besides protecting children from exploitation and trafficking, the campaign started by Kailash also focuses on filing PILs on pertinent aspects of child labour. Such PILs have not only triggered national debate on the issue of bonded labour employing children but also led to some policy changes at the national level.

Kailash is a campaigner of global repute because he has taken the issue of child rights on a global scale through his campaign, "Global March Against Child Labour". What makes me laud his activism and perseverance is the fact that he chose to work towards a social issue that has always been unrecognised by the government, corporates and even civil society. In a country where 25 million children are deprived of education and safe shelter, the government has not done enough to support voluntary organisations that come out in support of destitute children. Areas such as empowerment of women and differently-abled; affordable healthcare; protection of environment and education of children have been addressed by as many as 2.5 million voluntary organisations, and still the sector of  "social service" remains unacknowledged in our country. Kailash and I have been talking about this issue for the last couple of days and now that he is a globally acknowledged figure, we hope to find impetus towards mainstreaming children’s rights into government policies and programmes.

Our laws are outdated: Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act has several limitations. We need to change them as a priority. From increasing the age of a ‘child’ in the eyes of law from 14 to 18 to expanding the scope of working conditions considered 'hazardous’ for children, there are multiple areas of child rights that remain unaddressed. These are some of the areas we strive to change, after his return to the country on the 13th. I keep reminding him that, “You are a Nobel Laureate, you can preach to anybody.” And he simply replies that his only goal is bringing up happy children and creating a happy nation.

Last updated: December 11, 2014 | 12:43
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