India, once thought of as a country of more than a billion people living in poverty, has seen its economy boom, and has emerged as a new force in global manufacturing.
But that is not the full story. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 150 million children and teenagers are victims of child labour around the world, and India has long been among the worst offenders.
More than 10 million children and teenagers between the ages of five and 14 are forced to work in the country, often through trafficking and bondage.
But over the last few years, things have been changing, in no small part thanks to the work of one man: Kailash Satyarthi.
He has fought against child trafficking for decades, freeing more than 87,000 children and teenagers and contributing to global conventions on children’s rights. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his efforts, bringing the issue into the international spotlight.
More than a decade ago, Al Jazeera met Kailash Satyarthi as he led a march around the country to raise awareness for the cause.
At the time, Satyarthi was sure that the demonstration, which drew together thousands of people at each stop, was the largest of its kind.
Now, more than 10 years on, awareness has continued to grow. In a studio interview with Al Jazeera, Satyarthi says there has been progress, as mindsets have shifted and more legal protections have been put in place.
“Definitely there is significant improvement in consciousness of masses and behaviour policies and practices, laws and implementation,” he says. “India has ratified two most important ILO conventions, one of the worst forms of child labour and another one on the age of employment of children.”
He agrees that his winning the Nobel Peace Prize, however unexpected it was, helped give the cause momentum.
“It has brought a tremendous amount of awareness in the society, not only in India but globally,” he says.
“It was very much on the right time when the international community was working on framing or formulating the Sustainable Development Goals and I knew that there was no mention of child labour, slavery, trafficking, forced labour in the Millennium Development Goals. And we were raising this issue that you cannot achieve any of these goals without eradication of child labour and slavery-like practices.”
But despite progress, he explains that the fight against exploitation is ongoing, with some worrying trends emerging globally.
“A larger number of children are being involved in pornographic material production that has grown as $8bn industry. There was last year’s report and the online child sexual abuse and all other forms of abuses, child trafficking, use of children for substance abuses and radicalisation of children is growing. And there is no international law to check the data service providers which are solely responsible for that,” he says.
Source: Al Jazeera