In some disturbing news of late, dealing with under age child servants being abused, the entertainment industry in India has come under fire. The most recent story involves the former wife of filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, Suchitra Krishnamurthy. According to the news, State Labor Minister Nawab Malik named Krishnamurthy and another actress, Laxmi, in cases of employing minors. In answer to the allegations, and images of her all over Indian TV standing next to a battered child, Krishnamurthy posted her side of the story on her blog, and talked with The Times about the whole affair.
Minister Nawab Malik, for his part, has been on something of a mission to address the use of illegal child labor of late. There is no shortage of stories dealing with Bollywood celebs associated with abuses to children either, and Indian business in general has been on the hot seat even more frequently to stop using children as beasts of burden. A week ago TV actress Urvashi Dhanokar was arrested after reports she had allegedly attacked and tortured a 10 year old girl whom she thought stole some food. In that dreadful tale, Dhanokar supposedly blacked both eyes of the child by beating her in the face and then poured boiling water over her arms as punishment for taking food.
The News Is Not Suchitra, It’s India’s Children
As for Krishnamurthy, she pointedly denies any allegation that she ever employed a child under the age of 14, both to news outlets and on her blog. From what can be gleaned from the information she provided, it appears she was falsely accused based on some inaccurate reporting on the part of one of that ministry’s departments.
Suchitra, who is the mother of a 9 year old of her own, obviously took great offense at all the allegations. However unfortunate for her however, perhaps some good will come of her notoriety being cast in with a lot of people who seem to have no qualms about using little children to do their dirty work, and not only that, but abusing them at the same time. I know this is not much consolation for Krishnamurthy, but everyone in India will suffer even more if this child abuse issues is not resolved.
The Child Labour Prevention Act, 1986, was amended in 2006 making employment of children under 14 as domestic servants and in dhabas, restaurants, hotels and other hospitality sectors, a punishable offense under the law. Still, the immense job of acting on all reported incidents must be in insurmountable task given the numbers and types of industries in India which are not as apparent as the entertainment industry. Therein perhaps lies the reason for these rather high profile reports, and too the obvious false accusations toward Suchitra. A logical step for the Labor Ministry would be to target the high profile cases for any number of reasons, chief of which would be to send a message, and secondly in that celebrities are much more out in the open and easy to target.
There are currently tens of millions of child laborers working in India, in a variety of industries. In one story I read, a judge for one of the cases in point said; “efforts to rescue them (the children) are pointless because they are returned to parents who had sold them in the first place.” This sad state of affairs is not good news for India’s reputation in the world either, but more importantly theses children are living in some sort of medieval slave situation. India is becoming one of the most educated nations in the world. Its people are right now situated to emerge as one of the 21st Century’s most productive and advanced industrial nations. Yet, dark rumors of inhumane situations, environmental issues, corruption and other extremely negative weights are still around the necks of its people.
In Mumbai alone, more than 5,500 child laborers were rescued in the first few months of this year. What kind of future can India or any nation have when its children are having to be rescued from slavery? Images like the one at left were thought to be in the past for India.
But, until all children there are treated the same, until the cost effectiveness of using children is no longer there. All other considerations, every social, business or technological advancement for the people of India are diminished in the light of such inhumanity. Personally, given the power of Bollywood to influence the people of India, I think it only appropriate that the industry lead in efforts to ensure the place and safety of children. What do you think?
How can the beauty of Bollywood actors and actresses coincide or reconcile with the ugliness of child labor? It can’t. Bollywood should embrace these children, especially the actresses, lest the next Bollywood horror film be one of its own apathy.