Speaking at an award ceremony in Kolkata, Kailash Satyarthi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, recalled how he had embarked on his crusade against child labour. Satyarthi received the PC Chandra Puraskaar on Sunday and spoke about his early life.
As reported in the Telegraph, addressing the audience, he shared an incident from his childhood that had a lasting impact on him. Satyarthi said that at the time he was 5 or 6 years old and had just begun attending school. He would always see a cobbler and his son outside the school. So, one day Satyarthi went and asked the cobbler why he didn't send his son to school, to which the man replied that they were born to serve others. Over the years, the cobbler's response has stayed with him.
In 1980, as a young man of 26, Satyarthi started a magazine called Sangharsh Jari Rahega that was dedicated to improving the lives and rights of the marginalised. Hearing about his work and the magazine, a man from Sirhind in Punjab came to his office and told him that his daughter was going to be sold off to a brothel. The man identified himself as a 'slave' who worked in a brick kiln in Sirhind. He and others like him, including his wife, weren't allowed to leave the place. Now, the kiln owners had decided to sell his daughter.
For Satyarthi, that was a turning point. He gathered a few friends and drove to Sirhind. Together, they saved the entire community of kiln slave-workers that day. "There were 36 women, 14 adults, 22 children," Satyarthi recalled.
The next year, in 1981, he established Bachpan Bachao Andolan. So far, Satyarthi and his organisation have saved around 83,000 children from the clutches of child-labour.
Satyarthi urged everyone in the audience to join forces in making India a "child-friendly country". "Now the civil society does not solely mean charities running projects or donors," he explained. "Instead, it has become a strong partner in social development. The second actor is corporate sector, which has also emerged as a strong power of transformation. Their power has increased manifold."
"Now the state, corporate and civil society have to work hand in hand, they have to build trust to meet the aspirations of millions of children, in the country and elsewhere," Satyarthi added.
(With agency inputs)