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Look at these kids. They are kids just like yours and mine born in the same country, protected by the same Constitution and having the same rights. But that is all on paper. These kids have no rights, are not protected by any laws and come to think of it do not even exist as they appear on no enumeration.These are our Yamuna project kids. Their parents are agricultural labourers who grow vegetables on the banks of the river and till recently had never held a pencil let alone see a school. Their days were spent helping their parents in the fields, tending to siblings or helping at home if you can call ‘home’ a thatched hut that has practically nothing inside. In between and whenever they could find a moment they did what every child does: play!

Today we run a small project for them and they are the most eager learners what can ever find. If you ask them what they like best pat comes the answer in unison: STUDY! If you prod a little more you may hear ‘cricket’ but that is all. As they do not go to school, we run a proper school like activity with a warm midday meal and subject classes including art. Were hope to add more extra curricular activities and sports! Given a little help I am sure that each one of them has to potential to become every and any thing.

But this may not happen as the powers that be in their extreme wisdom are on the verge of amending the child labour law to legitimise use of children under 14 years as labour in family enterprises and though they add after school and during vacation we all know which way these caveats will go. Anyway, what about kids like these who do not go to school. With one stroke of the pen they are condemned to the family enterprise: agricultural labourer! Voila. End of dreams. So who says the cast system  is dead. I has had just been  surreptitiously reinvented, repackaged and ready to be marketed. Father cobbler: son cobbler. Daughter married to cobbler. And so on.

I am sick and tired of the empty and supposedly politically correct ramblings that purport to end social ills; the pro poor discourses, the Messiah like pandering. No one is interested in the ending poverty. Why should they. It is such a great political platform with innumerable causes to espouse. Deprived of the  poor how would politic as we know it survive. Gosh where would they find an alternative were every child educated and empowered. I get reminded of the Little Riding Hood where the wolf would say to defend such an abhorring amendment: to better manipulate my child.

I would like to meet the individuals who actually came up with these amendments. How can any right minded human being can accept to see any child under 14 work and forget the family enterprise as in this case it is not a swanky one. The family businesses we are talking for can be just about anything from domestic work to begging with everything else along the way.

And yet these kids who are condemned to grow vegetables could be anything they want with just a little help from society. But therein lies the problem. Over the past decades I have witnessed the degradation of a society that once was caring with values and morals to one that has lost its heart totally. Come on let us look at ourselves. We drive past a beggar child without getting outraged. We see a child toiling in  a friend’s home without batting an eyelid. We see statistics of children dying in thousands every day and do not get disturbed. I could go on and on. The reason is they are NOT our kids, they are someone else’s kids. They belong to another planet. Now the government you get is a reflection of the society. So if we do not care, why should they.

I wonder what and whose interest this proposed amendment serves. I guess we all know.

It is time each one of us went looking for the heart we have conveniently lost or sacrificed to the alter of some supposed Good that we all should be ashamed of.

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To the manor born