Mukti~True Freedom?8 mins 203 8 mins 203
“Before I used to pick waste, trash picking, instead of picking waste now it's much better, we don’t have to roam around in streets any more” said Malti. There was an intense smile on her face, a smile that hid the dreadful life they had been leading all these years.
There were few other women like Malti waiting their turn to get the money from the pyrolysis unit owner for their collection that day.
“This work feels good it is not as difficult as waste picking. People come here to deposit, their soft plastics and earn rewards on their mobile, this waste we collect from the people is turned into fuel “said she explaining the work she does.
She was a rag picker before, roaming around in streets collecting wastes, now they just have to come to this counter, sit and wait for someone to deposit soft plastic products like plastic bags, wraps, bottles, etc.
Though many women like Malti are happy about this life as they are benefited there is somehow an uncertainty about their future. When asked about their family, they said, “We think the education is important, the way we are illiterate we do not want our kids to turn around like that, we question why our parents did not get us educated and why didn’t they let us do things in life, why didn’t they let us go out of the home. We want our kids to go out but mostly they should get an education, we want our kids to have a better life we also want our home, right now we have a mud house, if we educate them then they will be able to build the house. Going to work, earning money feels good, we put some money away for our expenses, some we have so that we can use it in the future”
“The money that I make monthly, I can save some now so at least I can buy something and help my kids” muttered yet another.
Poverty, Illiteracy, unawareness are the trends in the poor people in the slums.
Sometimes I think, after struggling for freedom against the British for about 200 years we gained freedom, but did we get the independence in a true sense? The elements of Poverty, Illiteracy, unawareness have shackled the entire country. The unequal distribution of wealth, abuse, honor killing, discrimination, global inequalities, conflicts, and violence has led to the democracy deficit of the country.
Somehow we have lost the true meaning of Freedom-“Mukti”
It was my early days of Journalism; we were sent for our projects in the slums to bring out a story of their living style. The true stories were heart-wrenching. The family comprises of 7-10 members and each member earned their livelihood excluding kids, who were left in the house alone, no one to look after, no crèche, as all the women in the slums were busy in their daily waged jobs. They would either earn by boot polish, working in jute and glass factory, few worked in the pyrolysis unit like Malti, few more in a fireworks factory. The amount earned collectively was not even enough to fill all the stomachs twice a day completely, leave alone education. Plus, working in the factories like glass, fireworks, etc caused health hazards. They hardly had 2 pairs of change, the little ones would cry for milk. The time they require food for nourishment, they are left at the so-called homes to starve, malnutrition evolved to the growth of diseases and the death of the little ones each year. The place they live is all next to the dumping ground, full of flies, dirt, and wastes. How could healthy human life survive in such places?
We talk about the Right to Education, the Right to Freedom, Right to equality. The cash flow is so inadequately distributed that one can hardly think of a better future in the slums. People like Malti still dreamt of educating their children!
Hats off to them.
From the slums, we traveled to a little suburb village area which propped questions about girl safety.
Human Trafficking and sexual harassment are yet another such dark element that is refraining the “girls” of the society to achieve the gift of “Freedom”. The dark world has haltered them like animals refraining them from Freedom-” Mukti”
Extreme rural areas beyond the tea gardens of northern India are few villages where earning a day's living is so difficult. The main mode of income is working in tea plantations for the little amount that hardly filled their stomach. “We sometimes get the money from the owner sometimes we do not. It depends upon the quality and weight of the leaves that we pluck. “said Chameli a worker in the tea plantation. “My husband does nothing, he drinks the whole day and night, come back home quarrels with me sometimes beats me up. I have 2 children to take care of "she added. On asking why her husband do not work, she informed that he used to drive a van during peak season when tourists visit the place, but he did not have enough amount to return the loan to the "Shahukar”, they took the van away. The other villagers had almost the same story, they are neck down in debt and could not return either the amount or the interest.
Furthermore to the lush green fields of Jalpaiguri and subsequently to other parts of northern India, whether in Madhya Pradesh or Bihar, the country’s beauty is aesthetical, but beneath the veneer of lush greenery and misty clouds, India’s most perverted secrets are unwrapped.
Most of the families we interviewed had zipped their lips, the tea gardens were the only source of income, that too was less The "Shahukar", squeezed them out of all their earnings and savings, peak seasons were the ones when few guest houses are opened and domestic help are kept, the poverty within these parts are so prominent, how do they manage the rest of the year!
They were not opening up easily either due to the fear of the "Shahukars" or a different truth that they were hiding. We had to literally force them to speak.
It is estimated that between 24 lakh and 36 lakh children are currently trapped in child trafficking. There is a child getting trapped in this trade every eight minutes. Most of the time it is their family or near ones who sell the girl child to the "agents “then they are transported to big cities and from there to various parts of the country and the world. The agents convince the girl and her family by giving them false promises of offering jobs in the cities. When the family and the girl is completely convinced they start their work. It’s a complete chain and many people from top to bottom of the society are involved.
From the dingy streets of Delhi to the 100km stretch between the districts of Neemuch and Mandsur in Madhya Pradesh, selling children to ‘agents’ for commercial sexual exploitation has become a tradition - where aunts, uncles, and even parents sell their children. The girls even go missing at times and are never found. The families are scared to knock on the door of the police station for reporting the missing cases,
“What can be done, we have 2 more children, my wife my older parents, it is difficult for us to run back and forth about the police station, “said Satish calmly even though his girl went missing for the past 7days.
"The girls go missing are hardly reported, the family hardly opens up as they also get their share. They often sell their girl child at Rs 8000-10,000 into prostitution. The average age of girls being sold into prostitution is between 12 and 13. At the age of 11, they are sent on a one-year "internship” with older girls to understand how the trade works “said the SP of the village, when a missing girl named “Mukti” was found after struggles of 2 months.
Narrating the incident, he added “After a short struggle, the police in plain clothes managed to open a small door leading to a narrow passage. Inside were three children facing the wall “Mukti” was one among them, their fear palpable. “We are the police; we are here to rescue you. We are not here to harm you,” we said to the children whose bodies have clearly frozen in fear. The fear turned into panic as the children start frantically screaming and refuse to come out. A sheer situation of helplessness”.
On asking were able to nab the mastermind or the head behind, the answer was clear “No”
The police may be sensitized. They may follow all protocols during a raid. But the criminals are always one step ahead. Being an unorganized sector and with families willing to sell their daughters, it becomes difficult for the police to keep track.
The government or the police cannot be held responsible for failing to protect India’s children. It is a collective failure of society. As long as there is demand for children, the trade will flourish. The customer has to be caught and punished, only then we can experience the true essence of freedom.
Often girls like “Mukti” are not found when they go missing. Are the girls in our society independent enough to live freely, are the girls still struggling for “Mukti”? How long do the girls in society have to suffer and live with fear? How long they would thirst for proper education? How long would they suffer the tortures of their husbands? How long would they think going out of the house after sunset is risky for them? How long would they suffer sexual assaults? How long can they keep up their unflinching determination? How long would they search for "Mukti"?They need to give up someday to this sinister darkness where they are dominated every moment to give up their last hope.
The questions are for all of us, do we have an answer…………