Gurbaksh Chahal: What the Future Holds
For children across India, every day is filled with uncertainty. Will there be enough food to eat? Will I get to go to school today? Will I get to just be a child today?
The answer, sadly, especially for that last question, is usually no. Child labor in India is all too common, and the practice is only being slightly reined in by the government. This has meant that there has been an unprecedented amount of exploitation of child workers across the country.
The International Labour Organization’s World Report on Child Labour 2015 included the following statistics:
- 1 out of every 11 children in India are working. (That’s over 5.5 million children.)
- 80% of the children working are concentrated in the more rural areas of India.
- The two primary industries for child labour are agriculture and household services.
- 4 million adolescents work in what are considered hazardous industries.
- It is very common that when a child starts working, they stop studying, so by the time children reach adolescence, many have already ended their formal studies.
This is a problem that sounds like it has an easy fix, but in a country as large, as overpopulated, and as diverse as India, creating a blanket law that simply bans all child labor is just not possible. There are many layers that span bureaucratic, societal, and cultural issues. Solving this crisis will need to be done in steps, and these steps need to be well planned and well executed. Otherwise, India will have a never-ending crisis of disastrous of proportions on their hands.
What needs to change
These children work under the work conditions possible, and with not safety net to protect them. There are some policies in place in some industry, but for most children, this cruel situation is their lot in life, and it is very hard to escape.
Change must start at the government level, because the people employing children see them as a cheap and easy resource. That needs to stop, but it won’t stop, unless the Indian government recognizes that they are doing a disservice to the future of their country by allowing this practice to continue.
India is in the midst of an era of great economic development, however that is unevenly spread around the countries, and not all are feeling this wave of opportunity. It is a delicate balance, because India still needs to rely on its rural industries, but they also need to find a way to do so without exploiting children in the process.
In 2016, according to the BBC, India attempted to pass a child labor law that would have prohibited children under the age of 14 from working, however a number of amendments were introduced that weakened the bill considerably and almost made its original purpose null and void. It allowed for children to still work for “family” companies, including extended families, with very little definition of those terms, meaning many children could still fall into that gray category and continue to work.
How Gurbaksh Chahal is supporting these efforts
Gurbaksh Chahal and his team have visited a number of schools across India in order to spread goodwill and to see what changes need to be made. One connecting factor to the child labor situation is the state of education in these areas. Most of the schools do not have basic supplies, or even suitable buildings for learning. Without a proper fundamental education, it will be tough to escape the vicious cycle.
The #Letsmakeourkidssmile campaign is Gurbaksh Chahal’s pursuit to reach out and make the world a better place for these children. It’s a big job, but if anyone knows how to dream big in order to accomplish a goal, it’s Gurbaksh Chahal. Through the Chahal Foundation, he has made it his mission to give back to the world, especially the world he once knew in his native country of India.
India has a lot to offer the world. Their economy is expanding, they are developing new technologies, and the people are hard-working and willing to learn. However, these factors usually only impact the major cities and not the more rural areas of the country. For true change to be seen, outreach needs to be made to the smaller cities, and more attention needs to be paid to be building a solid infrastructure that allows these smaller towns and villages to have access to the resources they need to make sure their children grow up to be well-educated and well-nourished.
A lot must change for us to see drastic changes under this current set of circumstances. It’s hard to say if there is hope, but Gurbaksh Chahal and The Chahal Foundation, along with UNICEF and many other international organizations, are working hard to get India to change their child labor laws and improve the welfare of children around the country. Only time will tell, but maybe, someday, there will be a light for these children out of this dark situation.