I’ve heard the most outrageous snide comments about Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel Prize, not just from proponents of the extreme right in India but also proponents of capitalism in general (I’m aware that Satyarthi wasn’t a friend of any government in the past and fought a lonely battle, for obvious reasons, so this isn’t an attack on the government in power, in that sense).
Anyway, the snide remarks are coming from people who presumably are willing to turn a blind eye to infringement of rights and the law in the name of the free market and economic growth. In the context of child labour and trafficking too, some have asked whether the parents of these children were really happy when they were saved (they were earning members of the family, you see). I am assuming they meant that the trickle down effects of economic development will,, eventually, lead to a situation when parents will not need to sell their children or make them work for a living. And hence that is an argument for rapid economic development using child labour, cheap labour, bonded labour and whatever works to keep industry competitive….
Maybe it is just me, but I find this line of thought extremely twisted and am convinced that there is a need to find some balance. I do not believe India can progress if we throw socialism out of the window. However much we believe in the rewards of capitalism, basic safeguards are necessary to preserve the dignity of human life and the focus must be on ensuring more people are being pulled out of poverty, not just on an enhancement in national GDP.
Having said that, Kailash Satyarthi didn’t just save children and leave them to fall back into the vicious cycle of exploitation and poverty. Instead, he helped them help their families come out of poverty by empowered them in various ways and that is the strength of his work. A few links to read more on this…
“Satyarthi has also helped children sold to pay their parents’ debts to find new lives and act as agents of social change in their own communities.” writes The Guardian. Read here
” (Satyarthi’s) innovative approach of child empowerment through Bal Mitra Gram and bal panchayat (children’s parliament) at a par with gram panchayat has played a major role in getting this recognition (the Nobel)” writes the Times of India. Read here
“Bachpan Bachao Andolan (started by Satyarthi) runs three “transit” rehabilitation centers for rescued boys and girls in India to help them enter the mainstream and lead constructive lives. Younger children are enrolled in school and adolescents are given informal literacy and vocational training. Once they acquire confidence and skills, former child labourers are reintegrated into society. Legal aid is also provided for victims.” An extract from a 2001 award announcement by the US State Department. Read here