A billion solutions for 100 problems is how Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi described India on Friday as he appealed to one and all to bring a smile to the face of a crying child, especially those who have lost their childhood to forced labour in gloomy factories and at heartless homes.
“India is the land of 100 problems but is the mother of one billion solutions,” said the first Indian Nobel Peace Prize winner, who shared the honour with Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai this year, at the 12th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
“See the faces of invisible children and listen to the sound of their silence,” Satyarthi said to illustrate his view that lost childhood translates into losses across the spectrum, from morality to global economy.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi during the session 'Towards a truly peaceful, non-violent and child-friendly world' at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi. (Sanjeev Verma/ HT Photo)
“There are 168 million children engaged in jobs in the world. At the same time, we have 200 million adults who are jobless. If all these children are rescued from child labour, just imagine the number of jobs that will be created. But then, children are employed because they work 15 hours a day without going to the court or doing strikes. It’s convenient to employ them,” he explained.
He said people should resolve not to accept child labour. They should connect with NGOs or local groups and spend time with children in slums or those forced into begging.
“Respect childhood. Find time on weekends. Sit with children. You will feel empowered to make a child smile like they say, ‘Ghar se masjid bahut door hai, chalo yu kar lein ki kisi rote hue bachche ko hasaya jaye (Home to mosque is a long way off, so let’s make a crying child smile.”
He pitched for amity between India and Pakistan because peace “is a fundamental human right of every child born anywhere in the world”.
He said the two countries could bond and build a better future through welfare and education of their children, sharing a conviction based on his active social work in Pakistan for the past 25 years.
“I couldn’t read between the lines when the Nobel Prize Committee announced the award for both India and Pakistan. But I have been active in Pakistan … may be some 10-12 years before Malala was born. I once had guns to my head but god saved me. The love of children saved me,” Satyarthi said.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m the same Kailash Satyarthi as I was 30 years ago. I will keep on fighting as these things are just commas and not a full stop. I can’t wait, I can’t rest, I can’t stop until and unless every single child on earth is made free of exploitation,” he said and hoped that Parliament would pass the pending child labour amendment bill in the winter session itself.
“I’m hopeful that things will change for the better. Our organisation is working in 140 countries and from 260 million child labourers, the number has come down to 168 milllion in the past few years,” he said.
Nobel Prize is just a comma, not a full stop
Satyarthi said he would use the Nobel prize to inculcate the “sense of responsibility” among the people, rather than pander it around for publicity. “It is not easy to handle such overwhelming support. For me what has changed is the fact that the cause that I’m fighting for has received a lot of positive attention across the world.”
The award has increased his engagements, he said. “I used to work early mornings till late and used to spend time with my team and my family, which now has become difficult, with 7,000 invitations from across the world in the past one month itself to attend conferences.”
Full coverage: HT Leadership Summit