Even as a man from India with a pressing social cause is crowned with the world’s most prestigious recognition – the Nobel Peace prize 2014, I as a common Indian am going through a strange mix of pride and humiliation.
I am proud that a country of millions of people with thousands of problems has at least one person who has been selflessly working for a social cause without any political axe to grind. I am also proud that he has been fighting to save the most precious part of the human life cycle- the childhood. I am also proud of the fact that in this journey spanning over 30 years Mr Kailash Satyarthi has even risked his life while facing seemingly insurmountable perils.
At the same time I am feeling humiliated that I came to know about a great man when his efforts and struggle were recognised by the highest award on the planet for such contribution – The Nobel peace prize 2014. I am even more puzzled than humiliated that how his entire contribution has gone unnoticed by Indian media.
As I got the news that Mr Kailash Satyarthi from India has won the Nobel Peace prize 2014, I got overwhelmingly interested in knowing more about the man.
I tried to search for more about him and I could find some scholarly literature on labor rights that studied Kailash Satyarthi’s mammoth crusade against child labour and its significant impact on the same.
Kailash Satyarthi was born in Madhya Pradesh in 1954. He is a graduate in Electrical engineering and a post graduate in high voltage engineering. He pursued a career in teaching in the city of Bhopal.
In 1980 Kailash Satyarthi decided to play an active role in addressing the plight of the child labor especially the bonded child laborers. His goal was to free these children from an exploitative system and also provide them with proper avenues for education and rehabilitation. He founded an organisation “Bachpan Bahchao Andolan” (Save the childhood movement).
He visited rug manufacturing units in the eastern Uttar Pradesh and saw the child laborers working in appalling conditions and having an uncertain future. The eastern end of Uttar Pradesh state, in a triangle from Varanasi to Mirzapur and Bhadohi, is the center of the carpet belt, where it was estimated that several hundred thousand children were at work, mostly under conditions of dismal servitude and bondage. Despite the denials of government and industry about bonded child labor in the carpet belt, Kailash Satyarthi’s crusade, aided by the Indian Supreme Court, caused the liberation of thousands of children who were discovered in raids by these activists.
Kailash Satyarthi realised that the problem is not exclusive to India and therefore the solutions cannot be developed for India in isolation. This is because while the production of lot of goods happens in the poor and developing countries like India, the consumption of these goods is at a global level and particularly in the developed nations. Due to attention by a foreign TV channel which captured the plight of the child labor in the rug industry in eastern UP, the issue was noticed by the International labour rights organisations. It also resulted in the extension of Kailash Satyarthi’s network. He started collaborating with similar NGO’s from the other South Asian countries.
He also realised that conducting raids and rescuing the child laborers cannot be the complete solution and there was a need of some disincentive for the use of child labor.
He envisaged incorporating the “child labor free” aspect to be necessary requirement for a product to be accepted by the domestic and the global buyers. Thus he came up with the concept of “Rugmark” – the child labor free certification. The factories without the Rugmark certification would face problems in selling their products.
To read the entire struggle you can visit: http://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/CARPETRugmark.pdf
Rugmark is now known as “GoodWeave” label. To know more about the GoodWeave concept and be associated with it you can visit the following site:
According to a blog by Kailash Satyarthi his profile states the following:
“In 1998, Mr. Satyarthi organized the Global March against Child Labour (GMACL) across 103 countries with participation of over 7.2 million people and 20,000 civil society organizations. It is the largest peoples’ campaign on child labour that led to ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour. It has been successful in the formation of the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education, which is a working committee of UN agencies and GMACL for policy coherence and concerted action on child labour elimination, education for all and poverty alleviation.
Global Campaign for Education (GCE) – The education initiative led by Mr. Satyarthi is the coalition of civil society networks, foundations and teachers association campaigning for the implementation of Dakar goals of ‘Education for All (EFA)’ through international advocacy and lobbying work.”
The complete profile can be read at http://kailashsatyarthi.net/blog/
According to Wikipedia: “Satyarthi has been the subject of a number of documentaries, television series, talk shows, advocacy and awareness films. Satyarthi has been awarded the following national and international honours:
- 2014:Nobel Peace Prize
- 2009: Defenders of Democracy Award (US)
- 2008: Alfonso Comin International Award (Spain)
- 2007: Gold medal of the Italian Senate (2007)
- 2007: recognized in the list of “Heroes Acting to End Modern Day Slavery” by the USState Department
- 2006: Freedom Award (US)
- 2002:Wallenberg Medal, awarded by the University of Michigan
- 1999:Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Award (Germany)
- 1998: Golden Flag Award (Netherlands)
- 1995:Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (US)
- 1995: The Trumpeter Award (US)
- 1994: The Aachener International Peace Award (Germany)
- 1993: ElectedAshoka Fellow (US)
Although I believe that such a man is not driven by any awards or recognition, I truly lament that none of the awards in the above listed is from India.
Today India needs more NGO’s like Bachpan Bachao Andolan. I salute Mr Kailash Satyarthi for winning the Nobel Peace prize 2014 and hope that he will inspire many more to fight the malady of Child labor.