Every hour, two kids are sexually abused in India. One child goes missing every six minutes in India. These alarming figures are what inspired Indian child activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi to embark on Bharat yatra spanning 35 kilometres, covering a distance of 11,000 kms from Kanyakumari to Delhi. The campaign, a fight against trafficking, aims to make India safer for Children.
He started what can be called the world's largest march against child trafficking. The motto was clear—Every Step Counts!
But It will take at least 40 years before all the child trafficking cases are disposed off, says Kailash Satyarthi. He was addressing a group of journalists at the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, in Delhi. The journalists, drawn from around the world listened with rapt attention as part of an intensive course on 'Modern Day Slavery and Trafficking' being conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Hailing Satyarthi's historic Bharat yatra, initiated to create awareness about trafficking and sexual abuse of child, President Ram Nath Kovind remarked that real national building would happen if this movement goes on.
In what can be seen as a shot in the arm and a major boost to the movement, the Indian Cabinet approved the first Anti-human Trafficking Bill earlier this month.
As the founder of Bachpan Bachao (save childhood) campaign himself said: "People taking part in the child trafficking bill are creators of history."
He urged the parliament to pass it in its next session.
An elated Satyarthi tweeted thus...
The new bill not only proposes severe punishment and highly penalises the perpetrator , but also gives more power to the NIA (National Investigation Agency) to carry out the task of an anti-trafficking bureau.
According to the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, around 14000 kids were victims of sexual harassment and rape in 2015. There are 18 million slaves in India, highest in the world, according to Global Slavery Index 2016.
Unfortunately, these are gross underestimates given that the actual figures is appalling to say the least and thus remains under reported.
Satyarthi also exudes confidence in wining this battle against trafficking saying: "we will win this war and continue the movement till it's completely eradicated."
The child rights activist has also set up the surakshit bachpan fund to help victims of trafficking.
Should the Bill be passed in the ongoing monsoon session, it will be victory in the truest sense for his war against this inhuman exploitation of mankind.
Kailash Satyarthi's journey itself is interesting—From being an engineer and turning journalst and now a full-time activist, his life has come full circle.
Recalling the initial days of his career, the Nobel Peace Price recipient says: "When I started off I had no idea how to deal with the issue. But eventually, my passion about the issue made me realise that learning about the problem is just the beginning."
When Satyarthi started writing stories of child abuse, there came a phase when his editors stopped refused to publish his stories saying they can put out the same story over and over.
But his agenda was clear—create awareness. It was then that he decided to publish a fortnightly journal titled "Sangarash Jaari Rahega". Loosely translated it means 'The struggle will continue.' The journal was devoted to marginalised kids and women and highlighted the plight of slavery and child abuse.
Every article would conclude with a note on call for action suggesting how readers could help tackle the issue.
The first set of children rescued made people sit up and take notice. The incidence was the first documented evidence of freeing children from slavery in India. It also marked the start of the fight against human slavery by individuals and not government.
Subsequently his march which saw the participation of thousands of people, including politicians, students and people from all walks of life from every nook and corner of the country received a thumping response and drew the attention of the world.
Indian representatives at the UN rubbished reports of trafficking and child slavery, and denying there existed any such thing in India.
In fact, Satyarthi was at the receiving end for championing the cause. He drew sharp criticisms from all quarters for tarnishing the image of India.Furthermore, several industries that employ child labour were up in arms against Satyarthi's battles.
Satyarthi's journey so far has been anything but rosy. He lost two of his colleagues—one was shot down while another was beaten to death. Satyarthi himself has scars all over his body which are stark reminders of the ordeal he went through.
He credits the judicial system for the success of his first rescue case. "The judicial system is far sensitive and ahead of government on the issues," he adds.
Satyarthi's movement 'Beti Bachao' garnered overwhelming support from young students. The number of volunteers was a whopping 80,000!
"Freeing kids is not enough. Child slavery is a major issue as kids are most vulnerable. Industries enslave kids after trafficking and kids suffer the most as they can’t run away from the clutches of their captors," he says, adding, "The aim was to pressurise the government for fastest enactment of child trafficking law."
Now, the fact that his Beti Bachao Andolan has got the backing of the civil society organs, institutions, and individuals, the campaign has got a major boost. And Satyarthi sounds optimistic when he proudly declares:"Soon, kids will read in history that there was once a social evil called slavery znd I am confident it will happen in my lifetime."
Touching upon some startling figures, the child rights activist mentions that about 10,000 unaccompanied minor refugee went missing from Europe of which 6000 were from Italy alone, according to Interpol reports. Central and Eastern European mafia were involved in trafficking, prostitution, marriages, forced labour etc.
"I visited the refugee camps in Jordon, Turkey and Germany. A Turkish father decided to marry his daughter off to a 60-year-old man to protect her from trafficking."
The focus is now on the involving the youth force as they have a strong element of idealism
Another notable and most ambitious and largest campaign in human history titled 100 million for 100 million. The ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign aims to mobilise 100 million youth and children for 100 million underprivileged children across the world, to end child labour, child slavery, violence against children and promote the right of every child to be safe, free, and educated, over the next 5 years. The campaign already has 50 countries and another 50 are to be added next year!
The huge campaign was launched by the then president Pranab Mukerjee on his 81st birthday.
Real power lies in young people. Let them challenge the wrongs, let us give them a voice...they are the real leaders, asserts the Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
His contention is that every child has a right to get education in a safe environment. And that if nobody talks, he will raise issues.What more can kids ask for than a happy childhood?