This article is published by, 4-10-2007
[original article:]

Is India really independent?

In a busy by-lane of a Mumbai suburb a small hut like structure is cramped up with more than twenty kids working on fake handbags, which fetch anything between Rs. 50 to Rs 800 on the street. People who think they have a great bargain when they buy these ‘cheap’ imitations need to think again about the cost of precious childhood that has been lost with the ‘manufacture’ of these items.

In another street behind a posh hotel in a dark little room, Arun furiously scrubs away at the grimy vessels that are heaped up besides him. Like other child laborers his life revolves around hard labor - in this case cleaning dirty vessels and plates at the hotel where he is employed.

The situation of child labor in India has spiraled over the years. People employ children because they consider them ‘cheap labor’. The statistics speak for themselves, more than 416,000 children under the age of 18, of whom almost 225,000 are younger than 14, are involved in child labor in India’s cottonseed production. Not surprisingly most of them are girls.

A report titled ‘Child bondage continues in Indian cotton supply chain’ published on behalf of the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Watch, German Agro-Action and OneWorld Net NRW of Germany, reveals that the total number of working children in cotton fields has risen over 2003-04. What’s shocking is that the report highlights the fact that more than 13 Indian companies and two multinationals, Monsanto and Bayer, are involved in this ‘modern form of child slavery’.

The study is based on the analysis of primary data collected through field visits to 430 sample cottonseed farms in 78 villages in the four states. Of the 430 farms surveyed, 280 are in AP, 60 in Gujarat, 50 in Tamil Nadu and 40 in Karnataka.

In a country that loves to bask in its past glory and assume that its future is bright, it’s time to actually think about our future. Children are our future citizens; if so many of them are enslaved then can we actually consider our country to be free? Is freedom only a word and does it have meaning only for rich folks? Is India really so morally poor that we the ‘free’ citizens of India allow the future nation builders to continue in slavery?

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Landelijke India Werkgroep - April 28, 2010