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Kailash Satyarthi: Hoped that leaders would have valued freedom, childhood over votes

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi today termed as “a missed opportunity” for the country’s children the passage of Child Labour Bill in Lok Sabha, saying he had hoped that the leaders would have valued the freedom and childhood much greater than their votes.

“Child Labour Bill is a missed opportunity for the country’s children. I was hoping that today the leaders of the country would value that the freedom and childhood is much greater than the value of your votes,” he told PTI.

Employing a child below 14 years of age in any occupation or processes except where the child helps his family will now invite a imprisonment of up to two years as Parliament today approved a bill in this regard.

Satyarthi, who had strongly opposed many the provisions in the Bill and registered his protest with the Labour minister, however, applauded the MPs who had made strong points against it, including Varun Gandhi, who dubbed the proposed amendments as “lunacy”.

“I also applaud, inspite of everything, a number of legislators across party lines who have articulated and raised serious concerns over the bill,” Satyarthi said.

Activists had objected to several provisions in the bill like allowing children under 14 to work for family enterprises and bringing down the number of hazardous jobs from 83 to a mere three.

“I feel that despite some of the progressive elements the lacunae in the bill are self-defeating. We have raised some of these issues but none of these concerns have been introduced in the final draft of the bill. It is clear that children of any age can legally work in brick kilns, tanneries, slaughter houses and many hazardous occupation under the garb of family work and that will make our struggle much more difficult,” he said.

A survey carried out by Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) had found that as many as 21 per cent child labourers rescued in Delhi were working with their families.

“I have got thousands of children freed and have come across hundreds of cases where the masters claimed themselves to be the parents or relatives of the child,” he said, adding that this will continue.

Satyarthi said India has supported the United Nations SDGs which looks at total eradication of child labour as well as ensuring quality and equitable education “but now I have serious doubts that such a thing could happen in the prescribed time-frame because the SDGs are time-bound targets.”

He said the truth is that every child is born as a free child and “anything that hinders or cripples their freedom is unacceptable.”

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