There are reportedly 12 million child laborers in India who sweat it out everyday in shops and factories for meagre salary or paying up for their parent’s debt. I can’t imagine in the early 21st century with pervasive media and so much talk about human rights (not to mention the economic boom in India) we still have millions of young ones who are forced into bonded labor.

Many of Delhi’s lost children work in Shahpurjaat. In a recent raid by polic, fourteen children were rescued from the building making clothes for international retailer, the Gap. They work for more than 12 hours a day makinig clothes for other children! In Sivakasi, children are used to make Diwali fireworks and with construction boom in cities, we find little ones in stone quarries and carrying heavy loads on their heads under burning sun. What a modern predicament of modern India?

In 1996, the Supreme Court issued guidelines for how to deal with child labour. The suggestions included providing employment to an older member of a family whose child earns a living.  However, all the government has right now to tackle child labour, is an official penalty of a maximum of two years in prison, and the conviction rate is negligible. Read about unseen and unheard lost children of Delhi.

Few years ago, I met with an NGO based in Mumbai, that rescued many street children and are raising them. Many of them show scars from growing in broken homes and living on the streets. Now they are back in school and some safe place to call home. They do not have to beg or be exploited by gangs. I was really moved when a little girl called out to the caregivers as Papa and Mummy. She went on to describe her life in the new home and what difference it has made. Wow!!

Who will care for the millions out there? What do children and youth ministry response to this growing crisis?

Coconut Generation