Ali was a 10 year old kid. I happened to meet him on my last day of work at BOSCO. He had just arrived there and I made the move to talk to this poor little chap who sat there with a sullen face. He seemed to be aloof from the rest of the gang and there was something about him which instantly drew my attention.
” Aapka naam kya hai“? I asked
” Ali” came the reply. He seemed to be apprehensive about talking to me. But, I was determined to make him talk. Just a few minutes and this boy narrated his story. This is not the story of just one child, but the fate of many kids in India.
“didi padai mein bahut man lagta tha par bapu ne padne nahin diya, bole kaam karo, paise kamao, behan ki shaadi ke liye paise chahiye” I was very keen on studying but my dad didn’t let me do so. He asked me to start working and earn money, coz we had to get my sister married.
Ali lived somewhere in the outskirts of Delhi. He was studying in class 4 when his parents forced him to stop studying and start working. Ali was sent to Bangalore along with his maternal uncle. He was working as a welder at that tender age. He burst out into tears and I had nothing to say.
There are few moments in life when you don t know what to say but silence speaks for itself.
I just held his hands for few moments and he continued his story.
“last October my sister was getting married. They ( his maternal uncle and wife) didn’t let me go home. I called up home and my aunt caught me. When my uncle came to know, he beat me up very badly, he burnt my skin with hot iron rods.” The kid showed me his hands and I was shocked at this treacherous inhuman act. Ali was then thrown out of the house and he was wandering the streets when he came to BOSCO.
I asked him, “what have you decided? you want to stay here or go back home? “
The gist of his reply was something like how long could he depend on an organization like this. End of the day he had to stand on his own feet.
Many kids I spoke to had the same question. Even if we go to school will you give us money to fill our stomachs?
The government recently passed the child labour abolition act. But no alternative measures were provided. Even if these kids are provided with education it will be of no use in a way. The politicians and policy makers can blabber a lot of things but being pragmatic about them is what they can’t do. Non-formal education, vocational training etc are just on papers but very few actually gain access to these. On the other hand there are many kids who actually do not want to go to school because they are satisfied with the small incomes they earn. After all, what can be a greater need than satisfying your hungry stomach? These kids grow up to be anti-social elements and the cycle continues.
Thinking about this matter is endless, feeling sorry for them is non-sense, sympathizing with them is useless but being emphatic is what you’ve got to do.