'Porya' The Child Labour We Do Not Know

‘Porya’ The Child Labour We Do Not Know

Our first meeting was not about child labour or his book ‘Porya.’ He left a great impression in the first meeting on my mind. Mr. Shailendra Pol spoke at a book launch event and in the short ten-minute speech his intelligence, wisdom, empathy, and sensitivity were on full display. I met him again recently and my experience was repeated.

(Shailendra Pol, Addl Comm of Labour)

What makes a person so impressive? I know the answer: It is all about how those four qualities – intelligence, wisdom, empathy, and sensitivity – are woven together in his actions. What would be their use if those facets of personality are not backed by action? No doubt that Pol knows how to skillfully use his talent to launch effective crusade against child labour.

Pol works currently as Additional Commissioner of Labour. During his service he worked with two or three officers of his department who were committed to eradication of child labour. The big push came from Mr. Ratnakar Gaikwad, the then Commissioner of Labour who guided Pol in his initial (and successful) efforts. Mr. Gaikwad was known for his speed of action, and for reform oriented, non-hierarchical in thought and disposition, also for his proactive action and it helped Pol when he was assigned the task of eradication of child labour.

According to a Campaign Against Child Labour study, India has approximately 12 666 377 child labourers total. Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, has 19,27,997 child labourers. Delhi, the capital of India, has over 1 million child labourers. 

Giving statistics (the above is quoted from Wikipedia, and not from Pol’s book) is not the focus on Pol’s outstanding book ‘Porya.’ Porya in Marathi is a slang for a child (including child labour) who is often running errands. You will find them serving tea at Dhabas and in many small restaurants in the city.

All the above introduction will not prepare a reader for the shock that Pol’s book ‘Porya’ delivers. This 144-pages-book shakes the reader out of his casual attitude to the problem of child labour. Pol writes how Jannat was rescued in time – she was all set to be dispatched to the red-light area in another city. Another child labourer ‘Afzal’ was not so lucky. Beaten by his ‘Malik’ he was thrown on the street when he became a liability. At that stage his family discovered him but it was too late, Afzal did not survive to see his mother and sister.

Pol has written a few true stories and his mission is clear – he wishes to sharpen sensitivity of the readers to the problem of child labour. Without it no progress can be made. He describes how raids are skillfully organized, how those meet with hurdles from the Government machinery, as well as how the raids are sabotaged by vested interests, how law falls short of requirements and yet how it is possible to do good work to eradicate child labour. He also mentions what needs to be done by the Society.

(Child Labour is a form of modern slavery)

I reliably learnt that Mr. Radhakrishna Narvekar was travelling with Mr. Kumar Ketkar on a flight. Narvekar was carrying the manuscript of ‘Porya’ which he showed to Ketkar. Ketkar read it, he was so moved that he immediately penned the foreword to the book which begins (my translation) as: ‘The book in your hands is not just a book as we understand it, it is actually red hot burning coal. As a result, your mind will be subjected to its burning heat.’ I have experienced it. Ketkar put it so well.

Understanding of the problem child labour will never be complete without reading Porya. Perhaps the understanding of the problem child labour begins with this book’s reading.

PS: Shailendra Pol was awarded Special Fellowship for effectively implementing the Child Labour Abolition Project of International Labour Organization. He has participated in several national and international events as an expert on the issue child labour.

PORYA, Author Shailendra Pol, Manovikas Prakashan, Pages 144, Rs 170

Feature Pic Courtesy Atul Pandey on Unsplash