While flipping through the pages of an old textbook, I came across an excerpt from Anis Jung’s ‘Lost Spring: Stories of Stolen Childhood’ The Story revolved around a boy named Sahib who happened to be one of the countless street dwellers living in Seemapuri, a district in North-Western Delhi. The story focuses on the plight of street children in a country as big as India. It further throws adequate light over the fact that these children have been living in a dire state of poverty for ages.
The story also explores the problems he faces, getting exposed to hazardous waste in the garbage dumps, roaming around barefoot without adequate nourishment or clothes on his body. Sahib, like many other children dwelling in slums is a rag-picker. Finally, he finds work at a tea-stall, but is unhappy because he ends up losing his freedom in the process.
Stories like these keep emerging out of thin air every now and then, but we hardly pay heed to them. Perhaps we’re a bit too busy, or perhaps we see it happening and we turn a cold shoulder. Not paying heed to such incidents is perhaps the easiest way for most people to ignore what’s happening around them.
It reminds me of one of the major projects I had undertaken with my batchmates during my days at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). The project dealt with preparing a campaign for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The campaign drew attention towards the need to inculcate a sense of sensitivity towards juveniles who are being subjected to inhuman treatment in countless juvenile rehabilitation centres spread across the length and breadth of the country.
I remember the groundwork we’d laid down to make this campaign a success. We’d travelled all the way to a prison (I won’t name it) where juveniles had been mercilessly thrown behind bars. We’d also made our way to various government schools across Delhi to urge students to channelize their energies and talents in order to fulfil their dreams, but it was easier said than done.
So, our team decided that instead of telling children not to do something wrong, we’d tell them to do the right thing. And, it is here that we came up with a creative tagline for our campaign. The tagline was: ‘Karo wahi jo hai sahi'(do the right thing). The campaign was named: ‘Thaan lo’:Karo wahi jo hai Aaho. (Take a pledge to do the right thing).
As part of the campaign, we asked school children to channelize their energies towards something that they enjoyed doing. Some of them wanted to play, others wanted to draw and sketch. There were those who wanted to write.
We even prepared promotional material for people to see. The entire idea behind the campaign was to come out with something which would encourage people to do the right thing.
It is often witnessed that poverty makes street children indulge in things such as petty thievery. To help them rise above these problems, we encouraged them to get enrolled in schools. Financial constraints are just one of the many excuses we came across. The truth however, was completely different. Children didn’t want to go to school because they were unaware of the role schools play in a child’s life. Life,to them was all about roaming around doing nothing.
So, this is pretty much what was undertaken by us as part of our attempt to make a difference.
Whether we could win the campaign or not is a separate discussion altogether, but our efforts didn’t go unnoticed as we got rave reviews from the faculty @ IIMC.