Ignoring human dignity in the name of economic growth is unacceptable #kailashsatyarthi #socialism

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

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on October 16, 2014, in Urban Planning & Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Thank You Mukta for this voice. I did hear murmurs about Satyarthi’s Noble Prize but did not realise that it came bundled with justification of Child Labour, and Child bondage and trafficking. That educated Indians would make that arguement to support any form of free market is actually nauseating. Yes, its not enough to ‘rescue’ a child, it is important to create enabled atmosphere such that child trafficking and labour does not happen. The justification for socialism in this context for all the naysayers is the state of Kerala where child labour is so miniscule that when out of state trafficking occurs, mainly to transport to the Middle East, the incidents stick out like sore thumb. And we are quite used to children of maids and masons become doctors and engineers because their parents earned respectable minimum wages and so enabled their children to complete education.

    But having said that, no excuse is a good excuse to justify trafficking of children. Even the highest levels of desperation of parents do not justify that. And its not about whether the parents where happy. The child has rights, which adults forget. But a life o bondage is not her choice. Her right is education and a childhood. Parents, society and the government is duty bound to provide that. Not snatch that away in the excuse of economic growth.

    I would love the people who actually justify child trafficking to spend a week with my NGO and explore what happens to a child when she is trafficked. How scarring the experience is, how violent (even in cases where there is no accompanying actual violence, sexual or other kinds). How vulnerable these children are to exploitation and complete annihilation as people. How marginalised their voices. Then put up such defenses for economy at whatever cost.

    • Yes, Mono. But that’s the point. The people who voice these justifications are so privileged that they have never actually been exposed to any of this. An excellent suggestion, to send them to actually see how scarring the experience is. The larger question for me: How desperate are we as people if we prefer the “winner” nationalist identity over a humane one that demonstrates long-term success? Why the impatience and the need for immediate results and at the same time the complete lack of engagement with issues? These are scary and we need to flag them again and again….

      • This is the quickfix generation of instant solutions Mukta. Look at the media and what it projects. Homes that get made at presses of buttons, happiness accessible in finger tips. Diwali ads in TV have been making me mad, with the whole focus of the festival of lights becoming all about expensive gifting. Who has patience for inclusive development and true democracy that Jean Dreze and Amrtya Sen preach? Too slow!!

        Firstly people have to wrap their heads around understandings like exclusive is a bad word, human rights are not negotiable, and trickle down effect is a myth.

        Thankfully today I dont have to be politically correct anymore.

      • Absolutely! But that’s the point. People like us are being forced to appear apologetic about their political views and that isn’t acceptable in a democracy. You shouldn’t have to be “politically correct”

  2. Satyarthi is one soul who work relentless to free children from the shackle of ugly capitalism. What surprised me how we worked away from media glare as an unsung hero. We need more men like him. I am not surprised at the game played by capitalists who know only profit and they will go to any length. For them, ethics doesn’t matter and ever ready to twist the law as well as indulging in corrupt practices.

  3. Mukta, your voice is insync with what was said in ISI event on Wednesday. “Ham log badhbadhi aur jaldbaazi mein ji rahe hain. ” said a speaker there. How true… We have to get the sensex up, inflation out, gdp high, fdi in… More cars, more houses, more profits… It does not matter if al this is only a few exclusives in the country… Coz we don’t know inclusiveness any more… Having worked in corporate world and media I know the inside scenario and it is disgusting to see how we will do anything for money, free market, capitalism and now I might even say crony development. Thank you for sharing your views… And yes I did not know but now I do… Satyarthi is an unsung Hero.

  4. Read the 1st line as ISD event…

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