Crackers and Children

Recently there is debate on child labor in context of Diwali and Crackers.
I already have a lot of arguments on this topic with many of my other friends.

In my view even if children work in Sivakasi factories making crackers using potassium etc., it is not any social or economical 'cause of degradation of their lives'. Notice that I am saying its not a cause, but, yes, it is a symptom of bigger problem called poverty.
On the other hand, in given conditions it is in fact better for those children that they work there and earn their livelihood.

A lot of things need to be clarified(not justified) regarding this.

First of all above point does not mean at all that I want those children to burn in the fire of hell. I am not saying that they should work in contaminated and intense environment. There should be proper measures of their safety like use of gloves, use of overalls, proper distance from chemicals, bearable(regular) working hours. But that goes for adult-workers too, not only for children. The point some people make that those children have to work in very intense unhealthy conditions does not make sense because even if any adult will work in those conditions, it won't still become healthy for him. The point of working conditions is entirely irrelevant to whether children should work or not.

Anyway the thing is livelihood argument, of course, doesn't make sense if you pick up things from scratch; it doesn't make sense if we think of ideal conditions and environment like there will be education at their disposal, some guardian to feed them, government to protect them blah blah.

But think of it when a child has got a father who cannot feed him (whatever the reason, whether he drinks or he is incompetent, blah, blah). If the child cannot get food of two times then what's the use of education to him. Providing eduation doesn't solve any purpose for him in the long run. If I(lets say) really want to help him then I should provide him food, shelter and education and make him competent enough to stand on his own feet, which is no less than adopting him as my child. (Anyway if I really want to see stand on his feet, why I am snatching it from him in the first place, he is already earning his livelihood on his own). If I have to adopt him then it is not a problem of child labor, it is problem of degraded family planning in poor. Once again which is a symptom of poverty and lack of education.

Moreover, I am against creating orphanages and all that(free support). Because I think its charity. And if I(lets say) can give donation out of my income for orphanage then it directly means I have no right to earn that much income in the first place (That, of course, I can not agree upon). Moreover giving donation is basically like giving dowry. It doesn't solve the problem; more you give it, more it will aggravate the problem. Giving donation or charity to someone will neither create long term(not even short term, for that matter unless one calls begging a work) work-opportunity for him nor one, who makes the charity, will gain anything from it. Instead giving someone charity makes them more dependent than ever before. (Yes, if you want to give charity for possible sympathy in your heart, or for all the paap-punya and karma-dharma stuff, or because you hate beggars and don't want to see them rise again or just for the heck of it, then of course, go ahead). The point got diverted from child labor to begging. But it doesn't matter because both are symptoms of same problem.

Anyway, so essentially if I say that child labor is not a cause of degradation but a symptom, then it doesn't mean that it should be left on its own. Of course it is a symptom, but we certainly can help solving the cause.
First of all, children should be provided equal wages to that of adults if an adult would do same work. This will ensure that enterprises(factories) are not biased in exploiting child labor because it is cheap. Secondly work-environment should be hazard-free. Third, working children can be given education after their work-hours. A minimum set of education can be provided ensuring that child can pursue skilled-education if he wants, on its own.



13 December 2008 at 21:07

I get the feeling that you seem to view charity as just feeding someone and forgetting it all together from then on. It's seldom the case. For anyone to stand on their feet, they need some basic resources/facilities which include education and health-care. So, if an organization provides that, it is doing exactly what you advocate - helping people become self-sustainable. You can think of it as development work that ideally our govt should do, but doesn't. Many people/groups actually work with (or pressure) the govt itself to get things done. This is something I have learnt from my experience with non-profits. A lot of thinking goes on behind the work - it's not just buying food and giving it off. Moreover, even some amount of that is not always bad because it's not that people necessarily tend to be dependent on it. It may be true with beggars, but giving blankets sporadically to a bunch of slum dwellers creates no dependence.

Reg. crackers, children are far more vulnerable than adults in a hazardous amount, which is why there is this outburst. Many of the children there are reportedly below/around 10 years. Like I detailed in the other blog post [Diwali and Crackers], I believe that, over time, they can find employment in businesses that offer a better working environment.

I like the solutions proposed in the last para, if the children must continue working there.