“Just two months before full implementation of a landmark 2010 law mandating that all Indian children between the ages of 6 and 14 be in school, some 28 million are working instead, according to Unicef. Child workers can be found everywhere — in shops, in kitchens, on farms, in factories and on construction sites. In the coming days Parliament may consider yet another law to ban child labor, but even activists say more laws, while welcome, may do little to solve one of India’s most intractable problems.
“‘We have very good laws in this country,’ said Vandhana Kandhari, a child protection specialist at Unicef. ‘It’s our implementation that’s the problem.’
“Poverty, corruption, decrepit schools and absentee teachers are among the causes, and there is no better illustration of the problem than the Dickensian “rathole” mines here in the state of Meghalaya.
“Meghalaya lies in India’s isolated northeast, a stump of land squashed between China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Its people are largely tribal and Christian, and they have languages, food and facial features that seem as much Chinese as Indian.
“Suresh Thapa, 17, said that he has worked in the mines near his family’s shack ‘since he was a kid,’ and that he expects his four younger brothers to follow suit. He and his family live in a tiny tarp-and-stick shack near the mines. They have no running water, toilet or indoor heating. [...]
“India’s Mines Act of 1952 prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from working in coal mines, but Ms. Thapa said enforcing that law would hurt her family. ‘It’s necessary for us that they work. No one is going to give us money. We have to work and feed ourselves.’”
“Sixty per cent of the ‘global total’ who do not have access to toilets live in India, and hence are forced to defecate in the open. In actual numbers, sixty per cent translates to 626 million. This makes India the number one country in the world where open defecation is practised. Indonesia with 63 million is a far second! [...]
“‘Leaking and incomplete sewage systems contaminate rivers and lakes, causing diseases like cholera,’ notes Nature. ‘Around 97 million Indians do not have access to clean drinking water.’ The problem arises due to contamination of drinking water by leaked sewage. Sewage inevitably pollutes water bodies, both surface and aquifers.”
“Indian law offers limited safeguards and limited enforcement to protect such children, and public attitudes are usually permissive in a society where even in the lowest rungs of the middle class, families often have at least one live-in servant.
“‘There is a huge, huge demand,’ said Ravi Kant, a lawyer with Shakti Vahini, a nonprofit group that combats child trafficking. ‘The demand is so huge that the government is tending toward regulation rather than saying our children should not work but should be in school.’
“The International Labor Organization has found that India has 12.6 million laborers between the ages of 5 and 14, with roughly 20 percent working as domestic help. Other groups place the figure at 45 million or higher. Unicef has said India has more child laborers than any other country in the world. [...]
“Mala Bhandari, who runs Childline, a government hot line for child workers, said India’s urbanization and the rise of two-income families were driving demand for domestic help. Children are cheaper and more pliant than adults; Ms. Bhandari said a family might pay a child servant only $40 a month, less than half the wage commonly paid to an adult, if such servants are paid at all.
“Indian law deems anyone younger than 18 a minor. But the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 also creates a loophole: Children between 14 and 18 are allowed to work a maximum of six hours a day in nonhazardous work. Children younger than 14 are prohibited from working as servants, a statute that is widely flouted. Employers are required to provide daily education and document the child’s daily break hours, though most families ignore such requirements because enforcement is largely nil.
“‘What happens within the four walls of a home, nobody knows,’ said Ms. Bhandari, who contended that while abuse was not the norm, it was not rare. [...]
“Societal attitudes toward servants are often shaped by ingrained mores about caste and class. Many servants, especially children, come from poor families among the lower Hindu castes or tribal groups, often from poor states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. [...]
“Raj Mangal Prasad, a children’s welfare official in New Delhi, said the government was not staffed to carry out raids to look for illegal servants. But if it were, Mr. Prasad estimated, several thousand cases would probably be discovered throughout the capital. He estimated that one household out of 20 employed an under-age servant. ‘It’s plain for everyone to see,’ he said. [...]
“But Mr. Kant, the lawyer with Shakti Vahini, said the courts rarely issued harsh judgments in cases involving the rights of domestic help.
“‘There is a general feeling that we need these people,’ Mr. Kant said. ‘Cases aren’t taken so seriously. There is no fear of the law.’
“India is about the only country in the world where you actually see human adults defecating. When traveling by road or rail you can be struck by the image of men squatting openly, impervious to the public gaze. The UN estimates that 638 million people—or 55 percent of the Indian population—still defecate out of doors. The practice is clearly born of necessity in a crowded country where the development of public amenities has conspicuously failed to keep pace with economic and demographic growth.
“Conspicuous defecation, however, is restricted to males. Female modesty—enjoined by Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism alongside age-old patriarchal codes—dictates that women may relieve themselves only after dark or in the most secluded reaches of the forest, a practice that exposes them to violence or even snakebites. The consequences for women’s health can be devastating. Women of the poorest classes notoriously suffer from a range of urinary and bowel disorders born of taboos about pollution and other social constraints applied to the most basic and banal of bodily functions.”
“Indigenous groups and Dalits continue to be at the bottom in most indicators of well-being, the Muslims and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) occupy the middle rung, while forward caste Hindus and other minority religions are at the top. The ‘Human Development in India: Challenges for a Society in Transition’ survey has found this.
“[M]ore than three out of 10 forward caste and minority religion men have salaried jobs, compared with about two out of 10 Muslim, OBC and Dalit men, and even fewer Adivasi men.
“Dalits and Adivasis are further disadvantaged as they either do not own land, or mainly low-productivity land. Not surprisingly, these income differences translate into differences in other indicators of human development.
“Dalits have long laboured at the margins of a society that depends on that labour, but that has often excluded them. Although some Adivasis in the northeast fared better, other Adivasis living in extremely remote locations have been left out of the recent economic progress or forced to migrate, only to work as low paid labourers. In some cases, such as for the OBCs and the Muslims, historical disadvantages have been exacerbated by structural shifts. A decline in artisan incomes has affected the Muslims disproportionately, while agricultural stagnation has affected the OBCs.”
"'This work shortens your life. No one would do it by choice,' said the man, Abdul Sadiq. 'The problem is that you can never earn enough to leave. If your wife needs an operation or the rainy seasons lasts too long, you have to borrow from the kiln owners. You try to repay it, but the debt stays with you, sometimes for your whole life. It's like a pair of invisible handcuffs.'
"Brickmakers toil near the bottom of Pakistan's economic and social ladder, forever at the mercy of heat, dirt, human greed and official indifference. By law, they cannot be compelled to work or be kept in bondage; in practice, the great majority are bound to the kilns by debt. The work is seasonal and families move often, but if they leave one kiln for another, their debt is transferred to the new owner. If they try to escape, they said, they are hunted down.
"At least 200,000 Pakistanis, many of them children, work in more than 2,500 kilns across the country, according to studies by labor advocacy organizations. Their plight is well known and often described as a national disgrace. Human rights groups have exposed cases of kiln owners chaining or imprisoning workers; reformists have initiated programs to forgive their debts and educate their children.
"But resistance to change has been stubborn. Kiln owners tend to be economically powerful and politically well-connected, while many brick workers are illiterate, nomadic, cut off from modern society and unaware of their rights."
"Gowri, of Dharmapuri pan chayat, had borrowed Rs 2,000 from one Pavun Thevar and repaid Rs 1,500. The moneylender had calculated an interest of Rs 12,000 as the balance amount and seized her land and house.
"In most cases, backward class and low-income groups, mainly the Arundhathiyars [an untouchable caste], fell prey to these usurious moneylenders, who get their thumbprint on plain bond paper. This is later filled in with whatever they want.
"Hapless victims pledge documents such as ration cards, bonds of LIC and Provident Fund, bank passbooks and even ATM cards.
"Most of these usurers belong to caste Hindus and are either from the locality or neighbouring districts like Madurai. There have been instances of moneylenders compelling women debtors for sex, AMMI activists said.
"On many occasions, husbands who borrowed the money flee the village leaving the women to bear the brunt. An adolescent girl near Bodi attempted suicide after being sexually assaulted by a lender.
"There have been cases of suicides near Periyakulam and Muthurengapuram of Andipatti region because of torture from moneylenders."
"Small, sick, listless children have long been India’s scourge — 'a national shame,' in the words of its prime minister, Manmohan Singh. But even after a decade of galloping economic growth, child malnutrition rates are worse here than in many sub-Saharan African countries, and they stand out as a paradox in a proud democracy.
"China, that other Asian economic powerhouse, sharply reduced child malnutrition, and now just 7 percent of its children under 5 are underweight, a critical gauge of malnutrition. In India, by contrast, despite robust growth and good government intentions, the comparable number is 42.5 percent. Malnutrition makes children more prone to illness and stunts physical and intellectual growth for a lifetime."
"Most of the farmers in Maharashtra, who are engaged in cotton cultivation, had committed suicide owing to crop failures and falling prices.
"Although the national total represented a slight fall from 17,060 in 2006, the broad trend remained unchanged, the report said, adding that the total farmer suicide toll in the country since 1997 stood at 182,936.
"Besides Maharashtra, southern Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and central Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh states report nearly two-thirds of the farm suicides in the country.
"According to Indian Agriculture Ministry officials, the main cause of the suicides is indebtedness. Many farmers who work on small land holdings have taken loans from private lenders who charge up to 120 per cent annual interest from the farmers."
"The main reason for this situation is the rain failure for the last five years resulting in loss of crops and wages for the agriculture labourers who are predominantly Dalits of Kol and Sahriya castes. Not only higher caste farmers but even dalit farmers are committing suicides due to crop failure and indebtedness. The agriculture labourers are dying of hunger, malnutrion and unemployment. This region has been identified with Vidharba region of Maharashtra where as many as 4,453 farmers have committed suicides during 2006. It is reported that as many 200 farmers had committed suicides and an other 250 had died of hunger deaths in Bundelkhand during the last five years. Out of this dalits' share is about 30 % among suicides and 70 % among hunger deaths. 80 % Dalits are on the verge of hunger deaths. As many as 12 dalits in Bundelkhand and 11 dalits in other districts of U.P. committed suicide and as many 25 dalits died of hunger deaths during the year 2007 only.
"In the face of this horrifying calamity the so called dalit Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati had the temerity to claim that not a single man had died neither of hunger death nor had committed suicide in U.P. She also declared that she will scrap the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme which aims at providing 100 days' assured employment to rural labour families."
"In a virtual snub to the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on Thursday said the state had the 'worst track record' across the country in terms of atrocities on Dalits.
"'Uttar Pradesh continues to be at the top in terms of the number of cases of atrocities against Dalits reported in states across the country. The latest data available with us is for 2006 when the state recorded a whopping 52,827 such cases,' chairman of the Commission Buta Singh told reporters here.
"The statues, along with the portraits and images of Mayawati that stare out from hoarding boards and newspapers across UP, are just one clue as to the extraordinary cult of personality that has grown up around the 'Dalit Queen', a woman whose remarkable rise to power has seen her overcome widespread prejudice against so-called untouchables to lead India's most populous state.
"Diminutive in stature but mighty in her influence, she is currently serving her fourth stint as UP's Chief Minister. Many believe Mayawati, who courts controversy, now has her eyes fixed firmly on the position of Indian prime minister. Crucially, her party holds a simple majority in the state legislature that means she can stay in office unchallenged for a full five-year term, giving her time to project herself further on to the national stage and an opportunity to raise money to fund such a move. All of India is watching."
"About 20,000 workers rioted over high food prices and low wages on Saturday close to the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, police said, amid spreading global unrest over soaring grocery costs.
"Police fired tear gas and used batons to break up the protests and at least 50 people were injured, most of them police officers.
"About 20,000 textile workers from more than a dozen factories went on the rampage in Fatullah, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Dhaka, demanding better pay amid soaring rice prices, police chief Bhuiyan Mahbub Hasan said.
"'With our poor salary, it is now impossible to buy three meals a day. Some of us are even going hungry some days,' said Jamal Uddin, a sweater machine operator, who earns 30 dollars a month."
"Ramesh Kadam is at his desk in the Peela Bangla (Yellow Bungalow)
tannery company. One of the oldest in Dharavi, it occupies the same
factory, beside a stinking black creek, that Mr Kadam's grandfather
founded in 1918. The site was chosen for its proximity to the main
slaughterhouse of Bombay, as Mumbai was called. Handling meat and
tanning leather are considered unclean in Hinduism, so the factory was
built out of sight, on an island, with villagers of the lowly Koli
fishing caste mending their nets on its shore.
"Mr Korde's parents, landless vagrants from central Maharashtra,
trekked in around the same time. His father died recently of
tuberculosis, after a career spent hefting sacks of lentils in a
factory. His mother, Leelabaiy, a pugnacious 65-year-old jangling with
green bangles, lives with Mr Korde and his wife and two children in a
three-room slum-house. Unlike her husband, she had some schooling, and
retains a slightly sophisticated air. Asked why she married down, she
lifts up seven fingers—one for each of the elder sisters who had first
to be found a husband and dowry.
"With this history, Dharavi's population is diverse. Tamils, Andhras,
Assamese, Biharis, Bengalis and local Maharatis; all India's peoples
are here. Perhaps a little over half belong to India's poorest groups:
dalits and Muslims. They tend to live semi-ghettoised, as in Shiva
Shakti Nagar, within the same language group. Indeed, the poorer
Dharavi's residents are, the more caste-sensitive they are likely to
be. Mr Kadam is a dhor, of the dalit tanning caste. Yet as his
business thrived, his family became middle class, a powerful identity.
Last year Mr Kadam exported 25,000 leather belts to Wal-Mart in
America. He has moved his family from Dharavi to a smart suburb of
Mumbai. Laughing proudly, he says his teenage son refuses to visit the
ancestral factory, which he considers dirty.
"The four children of Venkatesh Dhobi, all aged ten years and under,
cannot shun their ancestral pool of filth. They work every day in this
well of brown water, beside a litter-strewn railway line. They pass
unwashed clothes into the pool, where 20 adult dhobis—of the dalit
washer caste—soak and scrub them. With an explosive grunt to keep
rhythmic time—a sound not unlike that emitted by Japanese Noh theatre
actors—together they thwack the heavy sopping clothes onto smooth
stones. The children then strew them between the railway tracks to
"They are the fifth generation of Dhobis to work at this pool. The
first, says Mr Dhobi, was his great-grandmother, who arrived from
Mehaboob Nagar, in Andhra Pradesh, a century ago. /For 100 years, we
have served this city,/ says Mr Dhobi, a short 35-year-old with the
torso of an underpants model. And yet their rural roots have survived.
All the dhobis in the pool—which is called Dhobi Ghat—are from
Mehaboob Nagar. Aged 14, Mr Dhobi was married there to a local girl.
The big changes of the past century, in his view, seem to be that
Dhobi Ghat has got much dirtier and people send fewer clothes to be
washed in it. India's swelling middle class—people like Mr
Kadam—prefer washing-machines. Together, Mr Dhobi, his wife and four
children earn less than 200 rupees a day."
dharavi.org, "a multimedia wiki website designed to gather information, images, and ideas on Dharavi in Mumbai"
"But what has driven the huge increase in farm suicides, particularly in the Big Four or 'Suicide SEZ' States? 'Overall,' says Professor [K.] Nagaraj [of the Madras Institute of Development Studies], 'there exists since the mid-90s, an acute agrarian crisis. That's across the country. In the Big Four and some other states, specific factors compound the problem. These are zones of highly diversified, commercialised agriculture. Cash crops dominate. (And to a lesser extent, coarse cereals.) Water stress has been a common feature - and problems with land and water have worsened as state investment in agriculture disappears. Cultivation costs have shot up in these high input zones, with some inputs seeing cost hikes of several hundred per cent. The lack of regulation of these and other aspects of agriculture have sharpened those problems. Meanwhile, prices have crashed, as in the case of cotton, due to massive U.S.-EU subsidies to their growers. Or due to price rigging with the tightening grip of large corporations over the trade in agricultural commodities.'
"'From the mid-'90s onwards,' points out Professor Nagaraj, 'prices and farm incomes crashed. As costs rose - even as bank credit dried up - so did indebtedness. Even as subsidies for corporate farmers in the West rose, we cut our few, very minimal life supports and subsidies to our own farmers. The collapse of investment in agriculture also meant it was and is most difficult to get out of this trap.'"
"The origin of the community's name is interesting. Some Musahars claim it is because they ate rats [musahar means "rat-eater"]. But Ram Prasad Vanbasi said the name was given because of the tribe's practice of ferreting out grain from rats' burrows. They are often stigmatised because of this association with rats. Without tribal status, they have no rights to access forest produce. They are bhumeens (landless). Mechanisation of agriculture has meant fewer jobs.
"On the day I visited Barrachawar the men had gone to trawl the ponds of a nearby village for a fruit called Ramdana, which they sell for Rs 40 per kilo. This kind of work is very labour-intensive. The Musahars social and political isolation was heightened when the British tagged them as a criminal community. In independent India they have remained vulnerable targets with the police forcing them to do begaar or forced labour."
"Kathmandu, Oct. 16: Krishna Bahadur Nepali arrives early in the
morning at Damkal Chowk of Lalitpur from Dhapakhel and spreads his
paraphernalia at the roadside. He spends the whole day by mending and
"'Unlike in the past it is hard to earn two meals. Our traditional
means of livelihood of sewing and mending shoes is ignored and the
ever swelling market price has added the woes,' he said."
"More than 17,000 workers at these tea estates have been struggling; there are no other means of livelihood. An estimated 1,000 people—workers and family members—have died of malnutrition and related diseases since 2003 in the Dooars region.
"Most of the affected gardens are far from towns and villages, limiting employment options and healthcare services for the unskilled workers. Public transport to towns is infrequent and expensive—it costs Rs 60 for a 30-km bus trip to Jalpaiguri town from Raipur. The Plantation Labour Act of 1951 makes it the estate owners’ responsibility to provide the workers basic needs—food, education, healthcare. With the tea estates becoming unprofitable after the late 1990s, the owners abandoned their responsibility.
"Ethnicity of the workers has also been a crucial reason why this abysmal situation has been allowed to drag on for so long, human rights activists allege. More than 85 per cent of the workers are tribals—fourth generation immigrants of migrants brought in by the British from Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh or low-caste refugees from Bangladesh’s Jassore, Khulna and Barishal regions."
Study on Closed and Re-opened Tea Gardens in North Bengal by Anuradha Talwar, Debasish Chakraborty and Sarmishtha Biswas for Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity and International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, Plantation and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) (September 2005):
"In spite of the spate of re-openings that have taken place in the past one year, the 22 gardens seem to still be crisis ridden. Many may be on the verge of closing down once again. Huge amounts of money are owed to the workers. This is a criminal offence, but action has not been taken on this by the Government and/or union leaders against the rogue employers. At the same time there has been little long term planning by any of the stakeholders to ensure that these gardens become viable in the long run.
"Owners on the other hand in the closed gardens and in the industry in general are taking advantage of the closed gardens and the defensiveness of the workers and the unions to gradually cut down on the workers’ benefits."
"The 'burra sahib'—the big boss—still lives in a cavernous house, overseeing nearly every aspect of life for thousands of employees, from housing to schools to medical care. Planters still gather from far-flung estates to drink at century-old clubs, and their wives still pass their days tending elaborate flower gardens.
"The laborers—tea plantations employ nearly 3 million, mostly women, in jobs often handed down through families for generations—are unionized these days, but most live just a few steps above the poverty line. In Assam, tea workers earn about $1.25 a day, plus free housing and subsidized food. According to union leaders, only about a third are literate."
"An overwhelming 79 per cent of workers in the unorganised sector live with an income of less than Rs. 20 a day, according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).
"A report on 'Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in Unorganised Sector,' released by the Commission here on Thursday, says over 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganised sector and work under 'utterly deplorable' conditions with 'extremely few livelihood options.'
"The report says that 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes [oppressed tribals] and the Scheduled Castes [untouchables], 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes [other oppressed castes] and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the category of 'poor and vulnerable,' who earn less than Rs. 20 a day.
Rs. 20 is less than fifty cents a day. In 2004 the National Commission of Rural Labour determined that the minimum subsistence wage was Rs. 66. The NCEUS report described above found that a total of 836 million people in India, or 77 per cent of the population, including wage-earners and non-wage-earners, were living on less than Rs. 20 a day.
"Unorganized" workers are those who do casual labor that does not pay regular wages and carries no legal protections. The term does not refer to workers not represented by a trade union, as it does in the U.S. and Britain: most workers in the "organized sector" are not unionized. Unorganized workers include piece workers, migrant workers, vendors, and unskilled laborers in quarries, kilns, and farms.
"Commissioned by the prime minister and produced by a committee chaired by Rajinder Sachar, a former justice of the Delhi High Court, the report presents a sharp counterpoint to perceptions of India as a stable, inclusive and multicultural society. Of all the groups yet to benefit from India’s spectacular recent growth - set to hit 9.2 per cent this year - none, apart from so-called dalits (once known as 'untouchables') and tribals, have fared as poorly as Muslims."
"The Sachar committee found that India’s Muslims, constantly battling perceptions that they are 'anti-national', 'unpatriotic' and 'belong in Pakistan', are reluctantly withdrawing or being pushed into ghettos. Markers of their identity, such as the burkah, the purdah, the beard and the topi, a Muslim cap, invite ridicule and harassment. Bearded men find that they are routinely picked up for interrogation, hijab-wearing women that they struggle to find jobs."
"Sachar notes that many Muslims are unable to buy or rent property in the area of their choice and find their children rejected from good schools. This has contributed to the sharp growth in the number of madrassas. The phenomenon should not be exaggerated: just 4 per cent of Muslim school-age children now attend full-time madrassas, according to Sachar. But in some states, including the populous northern state of UP, where more than 7 per cent of Muslim schoolchildren are being educated in religious seminaries, madrassas are spreading rapidly."
"Poorly educated Muslims generally end up working as self-employed, economically vulnerable casual labourers. Relatively few pick up coveted salaried jobs, which tend to be monopolised by high-caste Hindus. And those Muslims who do receive regular salaries tend to occupy the lowest rungs within organisations, with more than 70 per cent having no written contract or social security benefits. Poor work conditions are also reflected in lower earnings. The proportion of Muslims living below the poverty line, at 31 per cent, is higher than the 22.7 per cent for the country as a whole."
"Sachar found that Muslims had an 'abysmally low' share of prized government jobs, accounting for just 3 per cent of posts in the Indian Administrative Service, the elite corps of the civil bureaucracy, 1.8 per cent of the Indian Foreign Service and 4 per cent of the police. They had such a low profile in the military that the Ministry of Defence denied Sachar the data. The community is only consistently over-represented in the prison population. In Maharashtra, for example, Muslims account for more than 40 per cent of those jailed for less than a year."
"Of the 700,000 towns and villages in India, the vast majority are free from communal conflict from one year to the next. But the potential for such violence is a terrifying underlying reality. Communal violence left 40,000 dead and injured between 1950 and 1995, according to research by academics Steven Wilkinson and Ashutosh Varshney. The costs of riots have been overwhelmingly borne by Muslims, forced to leave their homes, businesses and land for sanctuary in safe Muslim areas."
"'Fearing for their security, Muslims are increasingly resorting to living in ghettos,' the Sachar report notes. But access to water, toilets, electricity, schools, clinics, banks and ration shops is often limited or non-existent in Muslim areas. The absence of these services affects women in particular because they are reluctant to venture beyond the confines of 'safe' neighbourhoods to access these facilities from elsewhere, with knock-on effects on literacy and child health."
"'The root problem is economic,' says M.J. Akbar [editor of the newspaper The Asian Age]. 'If you look at Indian Muslims, their traditional businesses, such as crafts and weaving, have been wiped off the economic map, and there has been no effort to create jobs in the space stolen from them. And now the malls that are coming up across the country are about to eliminate their traditional role as suppliers of meat, wiping out another large source of employment. The impact of all of this will be 10 years of serious violence.'"
"In this young nation, where 40 percent of the people are under 18, figures released by the government on Friday offered an alarming portrait of child health: Among children under 3, nearly half are clinically underweight, the most reliable measure of malnutrition.
"Additionally troubling, the incidence of child malnutrition declined only one percentage point, to 46 percent, in seven years, according the latest National Family Health Survey. During that time, the economy grew at 6 to 8 percent; it is poised to swell by more than 9 percent in the current fiscal year, the government announced this week.
"India’s economic prospects pivot in part around what it calls its demographic dividend.
"But the child malnutrition rates put India roughly on a par with Burkina Faso and Bangladesh. Sudan posted better results, according to data compiled by the United Nations Children’s Fund, or Unicef. Malnutrition in China was about 8 percent, Unicef said."
It's been a hard day's night by P. Sainath (The Hindu)
Hundreds of women in Maharashtra's Gondia district travel from small towns to the villages to earn a daily wage.
"At the station are many other women without options. They are also unusual in one sense: these are not migrants from village to city. They are footloose workers from an urban setting seeking work in the villages. This search takes them from moffusil towns [i.e., those away from urban centers] — Tiroda is a tehsil headquarters [i.e., the main town in its administrative area] — to toil as agricultural labour in the villages almost every day of their lives. Spending up to 20 hours away from home daily. There are no weekend offs and no jobs in Tiroda. 'After the beedi [cigarette] industry went,' says Mahendra Walde, 'it is impossible for them to find work here.'"
"Some of Ratul's friends also take up other seasonal occupations like working with caterers in the wedding season, reserving places in the trains during vacations, selling cinema tickets at higher rates, cleaning cars or taxis, buses or lorries, even trains, as vendors for tea and food stalls, apprentices in roadside automobile repair garages, carrying loads and shoe polishing. Contrary to common prejudice, only one in ten street children begs for a living, and most of these are very young."
"Mr Kelkar [a cotton farmer who hung himself out of despair over debt] had often talked farmers out of taking their lives in the state's cotton growing belt of Vidarbha where, on average, one farmer commits suicide every eight hours.
"In other words, three women become widows here every day.
"Mr Kelkar's wife, Indira, is now one of them.
"She is left with the mammoth responsibility of paying off his debt while looking after their four children."
"We will not quarrel with the Labour Ministry's notification banning
employment of children below 14 years of age as domestic servants or
helpers in eateries. We cannot but welcome such an important welfare
measure. Having said that, it is difficult to avoid feeling that this
is another case of government grandstanding on what is
euphemistically an entrenched socio-economic problem. Child labour is
a function of the endemic poverty in society and attempting to tackle
it through a prohibition is not likely to go far. All that it is
likely to do is provide a new avenue for the police - or whoever is
to enforce the law - to make money.
"The government's record of monitoring and regulating laws already in
force is far from exemplary. To begin with, there is the problem of
classification of a 'child' - for Indian labour laws it is 14, for
the Penal Code, 16, and for the Ministry of Women and Child
Development, 18. Enforcement has been so poor that 20 years after the
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act came into force, about
25-30 million children remain a part of the workforce, and an
estimated 75 per cent of them are employed in hazardous occupations.
Moreover, the Labour Ministry's rehabilitation scheme under the
National Child Labour Project, although well-intentioned, only covers
250 child-labour endemic districts of the country.
"No one would deny that child labour is an unhealthy phenomenon - it
robs a child of a 'childhood', exposes them to abuse and can have
long-lasting psychological consequences. In an ideal world where all
children went to school and got two square meals a day, it would be
positively objectionable and undesirable. As it is, despite the
government's avowed aim to provide free and compulsory education to
all children up to the age of 14, over 40 million children are out of
school. But what is a child born to destitute parents, with no access
to a school or any social security benefit, to do if he or she is
denied even the right to earn a living? Until the government is able
to provide the supporting infrastructure to ensure that no child
needs to work to earn a living, child labour will, sadly, continue."
"ELECTRICITY may still be a distant dream for Dalits in this Uttar Pradesh village where 70 per cent of the families live below the poverty line and many are bonded labourers, but that has not stopped their children from learning to use the internet or handle digital cameras. Indeed, some Dalits from this village of 360 families where half the land is owned by gun-toting Brahmin landlords who still regard banks with unease, have gone on to become teachers, army officers and Railway officials...."