BOLLYWOOD star Anil Kapoor has kickstarted a campaign to highlight the plight of millions of children in India who are forced into work, adding that he hoped his celebrity status would inspire others to help stamp out the practice.
the campaign run by the children’s charity Plan India aims to use Kapoor a veteran Hindi film actor with a career spanning three decades to raise awareness and encourage the public to shake off apathy linked to decades of social acceptance of child labour.
Kapoor, best known internationally for his role in Danny Boyle’s 2008 Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, said millions of children in the country were being exploited, largely due to poverty, and as a result not going to school.
“Our economic progress loses a lot of meaning if hundreds of thou- sands of children have no hope of a future,” Kapoor said earlier this month at a news conference launching the campaign in Mumbai.
“Child labour and exploitation must end. We are all responsible for coming generations and the world that we leave to them. It is time that our movement became everybody’s movement,” he said.
Census data shows there were 4.35 million labourers aged between five and 14 in 2011 against 12.66 million a decade ago although activists say the figures are under-reported.
A February 2015 report by the International Labour Organization puts the number of child workers in India aged between five and 17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally.
More than half are in agriculture, toiling in cotton, sugarcane and rice paddy fields where they are often exposed to pesticides and risk injury from sharp tools and heavy equipment. Over a quarter work in manufacturing – confined to poorly lit, barely ventilated rooms in slums, embroidering clothes, weaving carpets, making matchsticks or rolling beedi (traditional hand-rolled) cigarettes.
Children also work in restaurants and hotels, washing dishes and chop- ping vegetables, or in middle-class homes as domestic help, cleaning and scrubbing floors.
Kapoor said he joined the campaign as he wanted to be a positive role model and hoped his actions would inspire others to see how child labour was an abusive practice which was robbing children of their future.
He said povertystriken parents should also realise that while they may need the income earned by their children, it was important to focus on their education.
“It is mainly because these kids are so easily exploitable. Plus the problem is compounded by poverty,” he said on the sidelines of the event.
“so many times the household help will bring their kids to work with them, but the focus should be on educating these children, not on getting them to work as well.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)