NEW DELHI: In the early nineties, child rights was an alien concept in the dusty carpet belt and glass factories of Uttar Pradesh. With Kailash Satyarthi’s relentless activism mindsets began to change. Still, it took nearly took two decades for recognition to come his way. But it came with a bang on Friday in the form of the Nobel Peace Prize, which the 60-year-old crusader shared quite befittingly with Pakistan’s teen activist Malala Yousafzai. Within hours, Satyarthi became a celebrity on social media, particularly Twitter.
But much before all this, Satyarthi and his Bachpan Bachao Andolan activists, in daring expeditions, rescued little children working in carpet looms, smoky glass factories and zardousi centers just a stone’s throw from Delhi’s police headquarters. Tying thousands of knots with their hands to make delicate designs on priced items, these children were sold into bondage by poverty-stricken parents or kidnapped by village touts. Most of the time, they survived on just one meal a day. It was through Satyarthi and organisation’s relentless crusade that the media and later the Supreme Court realised that behind each of those exquisite carpets, colourful bangles and expensive sarees were stories of lost childhood and aging beyond age.
In recognition of his crusade and cries for help, the Supreme Court made Rugmark, a child labour-free marking founded by him, mandatory for carpets exported from here. Rugmark carpets soon became the only ones the world agreed to buy.
Employment of children in sundry jobs, including dhabas, gradually began to be seen an illegal. These were pre-Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Right to Education days, when there were no midday meals in schools and parents were not liable to be punished for not sending their children to school.
For, Satyarthi, the fight goes on. “The struggle is not over yet, but this is a recognition for millions of children, what they went through and still go through. This Diwali when you burst a cracker, ask yourself a question… There are millions of children still in salvery, particularly girls,” the Nobel laureate told Express.
He will now expand his work and coordinate with Malala, whom he knows
Personally, to ensure children, especially girls, both in India and Pakistan receive education in peace. Both laureates plan to invite their respective Prime Ministers to the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.