Child activist to speak at ILO conference

Last Updated 07 June 2009, 10:01 IST

He is 14-year-old ready to represent his country on a stage like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with the confidence of a seasoned activist.

Manan Ansari a young child labour activist, hailing from the remote village of Dhaurkola in the mineral-rich state of Jharkhand, who will speak on child rights at the forthcoming conference at ILO in Geneva on 12th June.

Ansari has been invited by ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) to attend the special plenary session of the International Labour Conference.

"Manan will be speaking of his experience about child labour at a global stage like ILO where leaders across the world will listen on the plight of this issue (child labour)," Kailash Satyarthi, founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) said.

Born in a poor family with six siblings, young Manan was forced to work along with his family in one of the many unorganised and illegal mica mines dug by villagers.

"My work required me to collect 'dhivra' (mica) pieces from ten in the morning to six in the evening. Sometimes, I couldn't get any dhivra for earning...," the young boy recollects.

"We had to dig up pits and sometimes, those pieces used to pierce into open wounds which would later result in infections."

Organised mining is now mostly closed in these parts as there is no high quality mica left. The soil is also not fit for agriculture. The Naxalite problem adds to the woes of this remote area. Left with no other options, many families like Manan's are forced to employ their children for extra income.

"I could not study much as my family's state did not permit me. And our nearest school was 15-20 kms away. However, it was after BBA's arrival that my parents allowed me to come along with them and I studied further."

In fact, this young boy topped his Class VII exams at Sohtana High School in Jaipur where he presently studies.

Ask about his purpose at the forthcoming conference and Manan speaks out his mind: "I am thrilled at the opportunity to speak. I would like to speak about India uniformly implementing labour laws. Action should be taken against those who force us into labour and also who exploit our labour."

"It was my family's poverty and illiteracy that made them unaware of our well being. These two ills have to be dealt with in checking this problem. And I would say parents should not force us to do this hazardous work."

However, such words are not alien to Manan.

Last year during a programme by Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and BBA on the eve of Children's Day, Manan had asked Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan why action was not taken on the basis of complaints by children to rescue child labourers.

The Chief Justice had then said that even complaints written by children on post cards would be treated as Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

(Published 07 June 2009, 09:31 IST)

Follow us on