Yesterday in the Management of organisations class, we had a case study about "IKEA" and how it dealt with child labor and the floor was opened for discussion on child labor and man wat a discussion it was... this was probably the first time that even after the discussion was broken up and during the break, every person was still discussing the class topic - and it was not the usual casual talk, it was heart felt, passionate and vehement discussions that I saw....good to know that there was so much compassion lurking behind the unassuming personlaities I see everyday. I hope one day, even if 1% of the words I heard went into action, child laborers could see some substantial change in their plight.
My take on the issue of child labor -
I very strongly feel, no child should be robbed out of his/her childhood - that is the biggest injustice and the most inhuman atrocity that can happen to a person....but is not emplying children the solution?
let me explain with an example...
the small town of Sivakasi in TN, is famous for its fireworks and notorious for child labour. The whole factory town thirves on making fireworks mostly for the Diwali season... and there was one Diwali when we all boycoted fireworks because of child labor and the inhuman conditions of work the children were subjected to. The big companies drove out all thier child labourers - because they had no option. Drastic reduction in Diwali sales meant losses of several crores...and they obliged tothe demand of customers that no child labor should be employed!
But wat happened? Immediately following that, there was a sudden spike in the number of children who were trafficked...the numbers were huge( I dont remember them now) - 10 and 12 year olds sold to brothel houses, sold as slaves to middle-east countries and Malaysia, as bonded laborers without pay (they were bought for as low as 10000Rs. and thats it), and some more gruesome stuff! And then the NGOs that called for the boycott realised their mistake - these children were doomed for child labor unless their parents were shot down.... if not the dangerous firworks factory it was an even darker job that beckoned them - not a great education and a good future. So then they went back to these companies and asked them to employ these kids back, but provide them less dangerous jobs - like sticking labels on covers, stacking boxes - the ones that dint involve chemicals, reduce work hours, increase payand at the same time have night/evening schools for them....
I hear that the big companies complied to some of the conditions and now there is a night school.. but how much is really true - I dont know!
Child labor abolished in the name of "corporate responisbility" is just a sham to stay in the right light and keep sales going... they dont really care!
So am I saying child labor is ok? Not exactly.. but wat is the altrenative is my question...there is no black and white answer.. there are several grey areas in varying shade of grey too...I really dont know where I stand, but one thing I know...even if I can make the life of one such kid better that would be great!