You will find them roaming around near Bahu Plaza. Holding a long sling bag on the left shoulder and carrying a broken shoe brush on the right. They wear torn clothes and look as if they haven’t washed themselves in days. These are the kids who clean shoes for the “rich” class of Jammu City.
To those who don’t know, let me tell you a little about this place called “Bahu Plaza”. It’s a commercial space that has many offices, shops, coffee houses etc. So, a lot of people from various income classes of Jammu city come to this place often. To top it, there are many Government offices like the Jammu Development Authority, Election Commission, Excise and Taxation, Social Welfare, Divisional Commissioner, Housing and Urban Development Corporation around the same area too. It is sad that the melancholic faces of these kids haven’t touched anyone enough to try and bring a change in their lives.
Most of these kids live in the area of “Channi”. Many of them have migrated with their families from other states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They leave their houses at 10 in the morning and reach back after 5. Walking around the whole day in scorching heat, hoping to earn some amount of money. On an average, they manage to get ₹200 per day. No wonder their parents don’t want them to go to school.
At the end of the day, what does a poor man want? Food, shelter and home? Well, thanks to the kids they are getting all of this. Then why will they think of sending them to school? It’s not always right to blame the government. Sometimes it’s the fault of the parents. They are so lost in their own troubles that they can’t see the difficult lives of their own kids. When asked one of these kids that what your parents do, he replied “Mummy ghar dekhti hai, papa Kaan saaf karte hain” (Mom takes care of the house, dad cleans ears for a living). It was difficult to digest his answer at first, I asked him again to make sure that he didn’t say anything wrong. But, he didn’t change his statement.
Jammu and Kashmir is a labor-friendly state, and that’s a major reason why it attracts laborers from many parts of the country. The state already has a lot of issues of its own like the controversial section 370. This makes it difficult to track the identity of every person in the state. Perhaps, with the coming of Aadhar at least this issue will resolve and there will be better opportunities.
We have good schemes; all we have to do is make sure that they are also implemented in the right manner. It is high time that the state takes tough actions to curtail the presence of child labor in it.
Moreover, we as a society should change. Technically, our hearts should cry if we ask an 8-year-old kid to clean our shoes. But, apparently it’s not the case, because if it was so then these kids would not have been earning doing this petty job on a daily basis. By providing them short term methods of income we are taking away a lifetime of quality living.
The problems and miseries of the “boot polish” kids are visible to naked eyes. We don’t have to go and dig deep to know their stories. Then why is it that we aren’t giving them a helping hand? Encourage them to study, motivate them, write blogs, and write letters to editors. A common man has a lot of power; utilize it in the right direction. And, I promise, it will feel good.
In the hope that the state of this city will change with a woman chief minister, after all a woman knows a child the best. Signing off and wishing Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed a very successful term.