'Youth must join our fight'

I  want to involve the middle class, especially, the youth in fighting child labour,” says Kailash Satyarthi, whose NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan rescued nearly 1,100 children in 2013.

Soon after he was named as the Nobel Peace Prize winner on October 10, his organisation has been flooded with thousands of requests from people from all walks of life who want to join the crusade against child labour.

“We will involve each one of them, depending upon their interest. They will be used in raids, rehabilitation or spreading awareness campaigns,” he says in an interview over telephone and email.

“Child slavery is a crime against humanity. It is a human rights issue, not a welfare or a charitable matter. Children’s rights are as important as that of any of us,” he says .Satyarthi admits the prize is a huge recognition for the fight against child labour but quickly clarifies:  “I work for truth not for an award.” 

“Getting any award is like another clap of appreciation for the work I do. I am a humble person from Vidisha, a small district of Madhya Pradesh, who never imagined that he would receive so much love from people,” he says

Satyarthi has a degree in electrical engineering and a post-graduate diploma in high-voltage engineering. While teaching as a professor in a college in Bhopal, he decided to work more actively for social change and founded his NGO in 1980 with the help of some friends. 

However, chasing his dream to rid the country of child labour has not been easy. “I have survived many attacks while rescuing children. In 2011, I was attacked by a goon who enslaved children in sweets houses in Delhi. When we work for truth, we have to face such obstacles,” says Satyarthi. 

He recalls how his mother cried when he gave up his career as an engineer. “I promised her that one day I shall make her proud,” he says. In 1998, Satyarthi joined the Global March against Child Labour (GMACL) across 103 countries with participation of over 7.2 million people and 20,000 civil society organisations.  

He is also a member of a high-level group formed by the Unesco on Education for All. The group comprises prime ministers of some countries and representatives of UN agencies. 

“I am a fortunate campaigner against child labour who got an opportunity to deliver a speech in the UN General Assembly. I also addressed the International Labour Conference and the UN Human Rights Commission,” he says. 

Satyarthi says there is a close link between the children’s plight, poverty and education. “These issues can’t be treated in isolation.”
 He condemns the caste system and calls it an evil which is no less than violence. He also talks of need of a strong political will to end child labour. “Political and public support will obviously add to the effort,” he says. “I want the common man to spare time for those kids who are neglected and have not caught the attention of anyone.”. 

“We will interact with the people from the middle class who want to join our campaign and find a way to give them an opportunity to serve the needy children and the country,” he says.

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