- 26th Memorial Lecture
By: R.F. Nariman
- 25th Memorial Lecture
By: Upendra Baxi
- 24th Memorial Lecture
By: Nayantara Sahgal
- 23rd Memorial Lecture
By: Ramachandra Guha
- 22nd Memorial Lecture
By: M. Hamid Ansari
- 21st Memorial Lecture
By: Kailash Satyarthi
- 20th Memorial Lecture
By: Pranab Mukherjee
- 19th Memorial Lecture
By: Sharmila Tagore
- 18th Memorial Lecture
By: Dr. Shashi Tharoor
- 17th Memorial Lecture
By: Meira Kumar
- 16th Memorial Lecture
By: Asma Jahangir
- 15th Memorial Lecture
By: The Dalai Lama
- 14th Memorial Lecture
By: Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri
- 13th Memorial Lecture
By: Aruna Roy
- 12th Memorial Lecture
By: Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
- 11th Memorial Lecture
By: Ela R.Bhatt
- 10th Memorial Lecture
By: Sonia Gandhi
- 9th Memorial Lecture
Prof. M.S. Swaminathan
- 8th Memorial Lecture
By: K.R. Narayan
- 7th Memorial Lecture
By: Prof. Amartya Sen
- 6th Memorial Lecture
By: Prof. Madhu Dandavate
- 5th Memorial Lecture
By: M.N. Venkatachaliah
- 4th Memorial Lecture
By: Prof. Savitri Goonesekere
- 3rd Memorial Lecture
By: Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer
- 2nd Memorial Lecture
By: Justice Silvia Cartwright
- 1st Memorial Lecture
By: Justice Sujata V. Manohar
The 21st Memorial Lecture
Every year, since its inception, the Foundation invites an eminent person to deliver a lecture on the subject of Dream of a Child friendly India. Mr Kailash Satyarthi delivered the 21st Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture on "Dream of a Child friendly India" on 27th October 2015 .
Speech of Mr Kailash Satyarthi on 21st Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture
Respected Bhandare Ji, Hon'ble Justice Thakur, Justice Rohini Ji, Justice Leila Seth, my sisters and brothers.
I feel honored, privileged and humbled. Coming here, knowing more about Sunanda Ji, gives me a deep inspiration. In the present age when we are facing moral deficits in all walks of life, these luminaries, personalities like Sunanda Ji, are a source of inspiration for a generation and the generations to come. She stands for moral courage. She was a person of deep conviction, and as far as I learnt about her, not now but so many years earlier, she had a deep compassion, and this is something required in our society today. I learnt that when she was very ill and even used to sit or travel on the wheel chair, I was told, she was attending court hearings because she was committed to delivering justice, even in acute pain. I salute her.
Let me begin with the story of 13 year old Payal, who has just come back from Sweden. Payal was born in a small village Heesla in West Rajasthan near Jaipur. At the age of 11 she was about to be given in marriage. Her elder sister was also being married off. She was a part of a programme which we run in the village called child friendly programme, or Bal Mitra Gaon. So she was confident and she took a courageous stand against all the norms of village and family and refused to marry, She also opposed her sister's marriage. Then there was lot of hue and cry and tremendous pressure by the members of the family and her relatives, especially by her grandparents. She said "No. I am determined and we will not marry". That created a lot of awareness in the society. The groom's family returned back; they said "No". The girl was not fit for the groom and his family, they said. Nobody wants a rebel girl in the family; no mother-in-law would ever like her. But that created a great degree of awareness not only in her village but in the neighboring villages. One after the other people started refusing child marriage. Not only now in Heesla village, but in any of the neighboring villages, for the last two years not a single child marriage has taken place.
Payal was elected the leader of Children's Parliament which we create in different villages. This village is one of those 400 villages where Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an Indian organization, had created child-friendly villages. A child friendly village is a village where all the children are free from exploitation, abuse, child marriage and child labor. The second thing is that all children, especially girls and girls belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and minority communities, have to attend school. And the third all children form Children Parliament by democratic election and finally the Village Panchayat, which is an official village institution, which has power and money to recognize the Children's Parliament and agree to work hand in hand with children. So when leaders of Children Panchayat take a decision that they would not allow any child marriage in the village and there would be no child labor, no child is left behind, all children are in schools. And once this happens, they celebrate and the entire village celebrates it. There is a big sign board put in front of the village declaring with pride "My Village is Child Friendly Village".
Today we are talking about child friendly India, but I always believe that on one hand we need top to down approach in policies and practices, in law, in delivery of schemes, but on the other hand, we have to create a society which is also having the bottom of approach and somewhere they should marry, they should match. Those who believe that they can change the society and make India a great India, only from top down must know that perhaps is not possible and those who think that we can change India working only at grassroot level, running some projects through some NGOs, I do not think it is possible. So both the approaches are important. During the last 35 years, we tried to fulfil this Dream, but it was not easy to do so.
The first dream I had was when I was 5 and a half years old. I went to school in my native town Midesha in Madhya Pradesh. There was a public school where I saw a boy sitting just outside the school and was waiting for some job to be given to him. He was a cobbler boy. I might have seen children working before but somehow I could not bear the sight of this child working outside. Then I asked my teacher and my headmaster. Later I asked my friends and family members and everybody tried to convince me that it was not uncommon. They were poor children. They worked. If they did not work, they would starve. This was a common practice. It was a common practice because they were born to certain castes.
One day, I got out. When I was coming back from my school, I went straight to the father of this boy and asked him "Babu Ji, Aap apne bête ko school kyon nahin bhejte"? (Why don't you send you son to school?) And he was shocked. He never heard "Babu Ji" from a high caste school going child. He said "No", "No". "Babu Ji To Aap Hain". He stood up. I asked him why he did not send his son to school. He said, "I never thought about it". I started working since my childhood and so did my father and my grandfather, and now my son. And then he felt miserable, helpless and hopeless and looked at me. "Babu Ji Aap Jante Nahin Ke Ham Log to kam karne ke liye hi paida hote hain. " (Sir, probably you do not know, we people are born to work). I refused to accept that saying why some children were born just to work at the cost of their childhood, their education, their health, their present and their future to produce things for us, to make us happy and comfortable. And I refuse to accept it now in India and globally. Perhaps, that was the first part in my own life to dream a child friendly society, a child friendly India and the child friendly world.
I am so happy that 35 years ago, when child labor, child servitude, child trafficking, child slavery were not the phrases which were heard in the society. Even the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has been adopted only in 1989 and it was rolled out into practice in 1990. So the whole notion of child rights, which is fundamental to creating a child friendly India, child friendly world, and child friendly society was not yet born. People were doing charity; people will help poor children, but I do not believe in it. I started seeing the world with a different eye, in a different perspective. That is why in the 125 years of history of Nobel peace prize, for first time, this award has been given to this cause and that is why I felt spontaneously that this is the best ever recognition to the plight of the most exploited, left out children in the world and that is the biggest honor to my nation, to my motherland India.
Last 10 days ago I got a call from Payal and she was making a joke on me. It was a day when I was leaving to receive the Harvard University's most prestigious award, Harvard Humanitarian Award of the year. Being the first Indian to receive this honour, I was feeling proud of it. But this girl called me and said, "Bhai Saheb Ji, you are going to receive an award and I am going to give you the award". And you know, she went to Sweden as the Jury member of the International Children's Peace Prize and she was sitting with none other than the Queen of Sweden. Queen of Sweden is the patron of that and Payal was sitting next to her.
Dear sisters and brothers, I do not believe in passivity. I think this word should be removed from dictionary. The world is changing. The world is growing. The world is so beautiful. Why are we so pessimistic in our personal and social lives?. There are issues. There are problems, identify them, do not ignore them. We can solve them. We, as human beings, have tremendous capacity and power and potential to solve any problem and any problem in the world is not born without solution. People say India has so many problems and you are talking of child friendly India. Especially, to my foreigner friends and journalists and everybody here, I know and everybody knows that India is a land of 100 problems, but India is the mother of one billion solutions. People should not forget that.
I started finding a solution as far back as in 1980-1981. The issues of children were so close to my heart. Finding a solution to their problems, was my passion. My parents wanted to make me an engineer. I studied the subject. I completed my studies and taught in the university for about a year and a half. I specialized in transformer design and high voltage transmission in electrical engineering and there were not too many specialists in India those days. So I have several opportunities. When I was in 3rd and 4th year, job offers started coming to me but I did not accept. I just taught in the university for a few years. But one day I decided to give up my career. When I quit my job, let me tell you, I do not come from a rich family. My mother was a widow, my father passed away at an early age. He was an ordinary police constable. So my mother had to spend money for me and did every possible thing for my studies. But I was determined that my life was not for my own comforts. I decided. It was even more hard because at that time I was married. I had my wife and my one year old son, Bhuvan, who is a lawyer now. We moved to Delhi and we said "sangharsh jari rahega". The whole idea, because there was no one to follow, there was no organization, no individual who was fighting against child labor and child slavery. So it was very hard to learn from any one in India or abroad. UNICEF did not start. ILO did not start anything. So it was tough.
One day a desperate father knocked at my door and when I opened the door, I found that his daughter was about to be sold to a brothel and it was a shocking story. It was in 1981. Seventeen years earlier, this man Batal Khan , his newly married wife and a couple of other families were trafficked from Aligarh to work at a brick kiln in Punjab. During those years, they were not paid anything but they were made slaves. They were not allowed to leave that kiln. When I was writing the story for my magazine, I put down my pencil and my paper. It thundered to me, if she was my daughter, what would I do? If she was my sister, what would I do? I would turn the whole world up and down. I would do everything possible to save my daughter because she was going to be sold at the age of 14 or 15 to a brothel and the brothel people were keeping on coming to negotiate the price. Somehow the negotiation was not materialized. I told him that I was going to rescue his daughter. He said "No they are the mafia. They will kill you and me". I collected some of my friends and some money and hired a truck and reached there. We were beaten up. We were not allowed to move inside and then somehow he ran away. Batal Khan was caught, came barefooted and then suddenly I thought that India has great vision. Though there was no domestic law against child labor those days, but still we were using habeas corpus and other procedures. I talked to some of my friends, some of the local lawyers in Delhi and we filed a habeas corpus petition and as a result 46 children, women and men were rescued. And that was the first judicial intervention in the contemporary time when children were liberated from servitude. Since then I have the greatest respect for the judiciary, independence of higher judiciary in India.
Of course, there are problems at local judiciary but sometimes we are harassed and we are not allowed to do things. It is not easy. At least the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts have been extremely helpful for delivery of justice for these children. That day, when I was bringing those children, women and men, I tell you dear friends, that I have read about the Freedom Movement, I have read about liberty and liberation, I have read about emancipation, philosophical and mythological books, but it was the first time in my life when I personally felt what freedom was. That day I realized that I was not freeing those girls and boys but I was freeing myself. I realized that it was the first sphere of freedom that appeared on the faces of those children. That is nothing but a glimpse of God. I realized the first year of joy rolled on the faces of those children; mothers and fathers got a smile and I am so fortunate that my colleagues and I have been able to see that smile of God, the glimpse of God, not only once or twice but thousands of times in our short life. What else do I want?
But that was not enough. We needed a law. So we have to fight for a new law in India. We organized a long march from Kanya Kumari to Kashmir to Delhi with a demand that we must change India's Constitution and make education a fundamental right. People laughed at me. "You are not a politician. You are not a Member of Parliament and you are talking of changing the country's Constitution". I said "Yes". We can do it. We organized a long march which went on for 6 months and 168 Members of Parliament physically joined the march at different times, different places and we built a strong movement within the Parliament and now we have Education as a Fundamental Right in India.
So friends, I do not believe only on the possibility, I believe in certainty. It is inevitable. I did not stop in India. It is not only in India. I thought of addressing the problem in a global perspective. There are so many things, which are responsible for education of child in India and in many parts of the world. So we decided to have a worldwide march across the world. Again I brought a dream to create a better place for children and make a child friendly world with a very fundamental demand that at least international communities should pass an international law to combat the most heinous form of child labor, slavery, trafficking, child prosecution, use of children in the armies, and so on. Again, it was not possible but the organization's physical march in 103 countries went on for 6 months and after 6 months we reached ILO's General Assembly in Geneva. We moved across 103 countries and covered 80,000 kms. distance, which is double the periphery of the earth. We built the momentum, but more importantly, when we reached Geneva and at least the General Assembly of ILO, the moral power of the survivors and the victims was so strong, so pure that no Government in the world could say "No" to the demand of children. Children reached the dais in the United Nations Palais de nation in Geneva, with one single demand "we want books, we want toys". "We do not want exploitation. We want education". Let me tell you that immediately a Resolution was passed in principle. As a result of it, within one year ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor was introduced and unanimously adopted. It is for the first time in the human history that when the powers of children, when the powers of mothers and fathers, powers of ordinary people in the civil society could demand and get an International Law, the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Slowly, we moved towards them. Since then we have seen many many things. The number of child laborers globally have gone down from 268 million in 2000 to 168 million now. 15 years is not a big time in the history of the tremendous achievements. It was not Kailash Satyarthi. "We ' made it possible. The number of out of school children in those days globally was 130 million, but today it has gone down to 59 million. These are all the official figures of United Nations. The most recent accomplishment, I would say for the world's children to make more child friendly India , a child friendly country. For many years, people like me, have been demanding that we cannot achieve most of the millennium development goals without ensuring education for all without ensuring abolition of child labor and child marriages and violence against children, child slavery, child prostitution, but except education these things were not incorporated in the MDGs. So the MDG's phase is over. Now the world has a new development agenda. People listened to us. People lent ears to our plea. O.K. good idea. A good idea to talk to the people who meet us. It was difficult to talk to people who matter. Even Secretary General, Presidents and Prime Ministers but thanks to the Nobel Committee, which has finally given me this opportunity to talk to U.N. Secretary General, couple of times and sit and discuss about it, to talk to Presidents including President Obama and Prime Minister of Norway and Sweden on several things during the last one year and let me tell you that the idea which began from the soil of India spread world over. The discourse could not be completed. Such a development is not possible without bringing to schools our children and protecting our children. Finally last month, I was also invited to address the General Assembly, rarest of the rare chances for an ordinary person, but it was possible because the General Assembly has adopted every single demand which we raised now and in the sustainable development goal, modern slavery, trafficking and child labor, everything is included.
So India has also a big development agenda. But what is happening here? Our society is driven by 3 enemies, social enemies in India and globally. These are the biggest enemies. Today I am talking about India. The biggest enemy is apathy. A 2-3 year old girl is kidnapped within 10 minutes when electricity was gone in Delhi. She was kidnapped. She was taken to a field by 2 boys, who committed a heinous crime. She was sexually abused, raped multiple times by those boys. There was an outcry. Whose daughter is she? What happened in Faridabad, where a 3-4 year old girl was taken away and raped, a week or may be, 10 days ago. Another girl was taken away, brutally raped and murdered. Whose daughters are they? We have just worshipped Goddess Durga and this incident, the most shameful incident, took place in Delhi on Durga Ashtami. What society are we living in? The girls are not safe. Neither in their homes, nor in their schools, nor in their neighborhood, nor in hospitals, nor in police stations - - I am not generalizing it but I am telling that they feel frightened. Fear is something which is driving us, which is frightening and all the reactions and all the creations are so reactive to address that fear which is prevailing in our society. That is the second big enemy. We worship the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi, which we are going to prepare for Deepawali. A man worships Goddess Laxmi, who is a symbol of wealth, Saraswati, a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. Goddess Durga, is a symbol of power and strength. Where does the strength lie? We are worshipping goddesses, but our girls who are living goddesses, are not safe. Dear friends, we have to act and we cannot simply listen and talk about and we cannot simply go to India Gate and other places with candles and so on. We have to speak out. All are our children. We have to create a child- friendly India. If we have to make ourselves more secure, we have to be friendly to others.
What does it mean by"friendliness"? Friendliness is the biggest safeguard in our personal and social life. If we do not have friends and if we are alone, we are unsafe; we are insecure. We have so many frustrations and problems. So child friendly India needs to fight 3 enemies - one is apathy, another fear and the third one is intolerance. Every day, we read in the newspapers how intolerant our society is becoming, how fast we are becoming so intolerant and intolerance is spreading. We have to fight these 3 enemies to make a India child friendly India. But that requires so many things. When we talk of our relations with our children, again we have 3 different kinds of relationships. In child friendly relationship even with our own children, the first relation with our direct biological children is to make them happy, we pamper them, we do every good and bad thing for their security, for their future, for their career, because we adore our children. May I ask whether you really feel yourself friendly with your real children? Friendship means mutual respect, friendship means listening to each other that can hardly take place. You can earn money, you can spend money on them, on their education but friendliness is little bit different. The second relation which you have is with your neighbors, great people. You are sympathetic towards other poor children, you do charity to poor children on the street who are begging and you put money in schools and different NGOs and even CSR is nowadays considered as a social responsibility, which is not really justifiable in my opinion. But any way, we are doing good for our children and we feel happy about it. But that relationship is keeping an upper hand and the other is grabbing something from you, that is not making friendly relationship. That is giver and taker relationship. The third kind of relation that we can have is considering our acts childish. Hamare han kehte hain agar koi thori bahut galti kare, then we say how childish you are. Childishness is foolishness. We have to change this mindset and consider that childhood stands for purity, simplicity, transparency, and forgiveness. Childhood means a quest for learning and learning. We put a full stop because we think that we have learnt everything, but learn from the child, then you keep on learning for the whole of your life. So our relationship with children is not child- friendly relation in most of the cases and for friendly relations with our children we have to change our social mindset, change our behavior in our day to day life. If you think that children are born with certain rights and these rights are enshrined in our Constitution, in laws, in the international treaties and bindings and conventions, we have to adhere to it. But what is happening?. We are not able to create a fearless society for our children. Rather the society is much more fearless. All the perpetrators, criminals and abusers and the frame masters feel more free and fearless in our society. We can talk of economic growth; we can talk of so many things, but a person, a simple ordinary person who has been dealing with children for the last 30-35 years, feels in a different manner. We cannot dream the smile on the face of the last child, a girl belonging to Muslim community, a girl belonging to Christian community, a girl belonging to a Scheduled Caste, lowest staff, lowest strata of society, in the remotest village. If we are not able to bring a smile of fearlessness on her face, we have to ask ourselves as to how developed we are. How prosperous we are as a country, as a nation. I talked to the girls who were kidnapped from Assam. Last year and year before last year we met a girl whose father came all the way, one time he was caught and he himself was enslaved. Then he came again when he was freed. He sold out everything possible to find his daughter and somehow my colleagues were able to trace her and she was working at a home as a domestic help but she has been sold by the so-called placement agency, two times before and had an affair. We went inside. We had full details. I was there. My colleagues were there and there was some argument. The police was just watching. In many a cases, police tries to tamper with evidences. They defunct evidences. I faced so much harassment in my life. My lawyers, my friends face so much harassment in their day to day work because the evidences are tampered. We do not protect and safeguard evidences in most cases but in this case when we were able to free that girl, it took a few minutes. The reason was that her father who was looking at her from the window, for 6 years, he wanted to hug her. He was crying and weeping like anything. The girl was hesitant to come. And she told me, " I cannot help my father because I am dirty". She has been raped. She is a survivor. She is a victim. But our society, look at the society, the taboo and the mindset of our society that the victim herself says that she is dirty. She is a sinner. We have to raise voice against those sinners. Most girls who are sexually abused, feel like that. Somehow we brought her out and she met her father. When we meet the girls who talk among themselves. One girl was talking to another and asked her my dear friend, for how much money she was sold. "Rs.5000/". She told "I am lucky that I was sold for Rs.10,000/-". I was listening to this conversation and suddenly a boy asked "do you know how much a buffalo costs in your village? May be 100,000 rupees". We are living in a land of Rama, Krishna, Kabir, Mahabir, Guru Nanak Dev. We are a land of great saints, of great traditions of great heritage, We have one of the best Constitutions. We are the largest democracy. A young girl says she was sold for Rs.10,000 and a buffalo is sold for Rs.1,00,000. We should ask the question and that is the question in the implementation of our law. That is the question on all our religions, on all our leaders and faith gurus, this is the question on ourselves. If we believe in civilization, if we believe in culture, if we believe in betterment of humanity, we have to raise our voices. We are luminaries in every walk of life. You are legal luminaries and I have been depending on judiciary and law for so many years, about 35 years. That is why I always say with full trust and confidence and with pride also., that I respect India's judiciary. But sometimes what happens?. Look at the situation of POCSO. POCSO is a very good law, in my opinion. Last year's NCRV Report said with 8900 cases were registered for 9000 victims all over India. Out of these 8900 cases only 1%, I underline 1%, resulted in conviction.
There is an old saying, justice delayed is justice denied. Many times, many parents, who show courage and confidence in the beginning and go to the court and the police, and the police harassing them, they lose hope. What about child labor?. Last year NCEB Final Report says that at least 4.3 million or 43 lac children are working in full time jobs in India. No Civil Society Organization believes in it and we feel that the number could be 50 million, 10 times more, but even if 40 lacs children are working in full time jobs. That is the government statistics on a sample survey. How many cases were registered last year? 147 cases in the country on child labor. CLPI, most of them were possible due to my lawyer colleagues who are sitting here, Chhabra Ji, Bhuvan and so many and what about conviction? Only 2%. Legal protections and judicial safeguards are meant for the poorest of the poor, and that was the vision, that was the dream of our forefathers, the framers of our Constitution. They do not reach out to the poorest of the poor children who are the worst victims of poverty, illiteracy, violence, discrimination and caste system. They are the victims and if the law does not reach out to them, we have to reflect on ourselves. I call upon you my dear friends, lawyers especially, there are luminaries from the Bar, I can see faces of Satalvad of the Indian Bar, Soli Sorabjee and many more people. I humbly request for your help. Noble Laureate does not mean that he can do to usher in change. Many feel proud that it is one of the first ever recognitions at that level.
I am the first Indian born, Indian citizen who lived in India, even die in India, and then change the country and my dreams of making India child friendly India can come true without me.
I am not a speaker, I am not a person who preaches and gives speeches. I came this morning from Germany. Yesterday and the day before, I was with children, Syrian refugee children in a camp and last night me and my wife Sumidha who is always my greatest companion and forefront fighter for this cause, we travelled together. We could not sleep, spending some time with children. A child was lost in a bomb blast and his father was in Syria-Iraq border. I met a number of fathers and mothers whose children were left behind, somewhere in Turkey or somewhere in Austria and some of them are lost in the boats. I was talking to them only yesterday and day before. It was so pathetic. I am connected with the whole world through internet. We are connected with each other to hundreds of thousands of flights connect us every day. The products which we are using or others are using knowingly and unknowingly are produced by other people in other part of the world. So the product, the knowledge, the technology, market, economic, profit, everything in life is globalized. I call upon you. This is the time. Here is the time. Today is the time. Here is the place and where you and I have to resolve to globalize the compassion. We can do it. We can do it. As a very ordinary citizen, as a simple humble organization, we could prove but we have a limit. Next is your turn. I call upon the Corporate people, Now I call upon the people in all walks of life, leaders, faith leaders. Why don't they come forward and why don't they announce that if a person from a community who is responsible for a child sexual abuse, he is a sinner and he would be ousted from that faith. I never heard those things. I spoke to those leaders and we see aspirations, inspirations, we see problems and solutions and all the problems which appear on the television from morning till evening.
I humbly request them, and I am prepared to touch their feet, please say something to protect our girls, save them to protect our children, tell strongly that if somebody is using child domestic labor, he is against Hinduism, against Islam, against Christianity, against Sikh Panth. Let them say it strongly as religious leaders are also leaders. Most importantly, as I started it in a country, with the children of the country, the most vulnerable children look at you, respected Judges. Many times when the governance and politics cannot help, the only hope, the only ray of light and hope lies with you and I hope that we will create a child-friendly India. We have to raise our voices and ask our government at the Centre and at the local level to invest more on children. Look at the situation. We all talk India has the greatest dividend and that is the demographic dividend. The percentage of children below the age of 18 in India is 41% and we spend on our children only 4% of GDB. 4% is spent on 41% of our children. Combine health, education and protection. We have to create a strong demand at all levels, to invest more on our children to create a child friendly India, child friendly home, a child friendly neighborhood and the child friendly police station.
Judiciary has played an important role and I expect that more and more judicial role could be played to ensure that we have child friendly police, child friendly courts at local level. Ask delivery of justice for those children so that the perpetrators will get a strong signal that it is not possible to evade law. I am proud of working with LALSA. Justice Thakur is here and he has been a pioneer. We have started an interesting program with DLSA in Delhi with Bachpan Bachao Andolan. We have to see that how we can have access to legal support for these children and the poor people, basically children. We are also trying to work with the police and others. We want to work with the communities to create more child friendly environment but that model is not enough only in Delhi. With this possibility, I believe and hope that if this scheme is replicated in all states, not only at state level but trickles down to NALSA, trickles down to district level and we from the civil society side assure that we are prepared to work hand in hand with LALSA as well as with DLSA and the state legal aid authorities, we can make it much better.
Dear friends, there is no reason to be pessimistic. You have the power. You have the power and let us resolve today that we are going to make India a Child friendly India in our life time. We have to resolve that we will see the end of child sexual abuse and child slavery and child trafficking, not only in the lives of our generation, in this generation, but in the coming generations also.
I call upon you to be the first generation in India to say with pride that we have written a history in this country, by making child slavery and child abuse things of the past.Thank you very much.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Mr. T.S. Thakur, Mrs. Leila Seth, Mr. Murlidhar Bhandare, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
At the outset I am very thankful to Shri Mulidhar Bhandare for the opportunity given to me to associate myself with today's function in the memory of Justice Sunanda Bhandare who worked perpetually for the rights of women and marginalized sections of the society. Though I never had a good fortune to meet her, but I have been told by my colleague judges, she was commanding lot of respect both from the Bench and the Bar not only as a brilliant Judge but also as an individual, well known for her commitment to the cause of human rights. It is given to a very few to distinguish themselves in various fields of creative endeavour and leave their indelible impression on contemporary life. Justice Sunanda Bhandare is one such unique personality who lived as her legacy and enduring spirit of human rights, particularly rights of women and children in every walk of life and sphere of activity.
Today's programme is not only a befitting tribute to the life and work of Justice Sunanda Bhandare but also an opportunity for each one of us to comprehend the ways and means to achieve the useful goal, securing a status of opportunity to all citizens of India.
I understand that Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation has so far organized 20 Memorial Lectures on several important issues relating to the rights of women and children. Today we have the honor and privilege of having Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, a noble laureate, whose name has become synonymous with the cause of child rights, to deliver the 21st Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture on a topic concerning welfare of the children. We are also fortunate to have Justice T.S. Thakur with us who will also be sharing with us his insightful and motivated thoughts on today's topic.
About half a century ago, the Government of India had declared the children as the nation's supremely assets and recognized that programs for children should find a prominent part in our national plans for the development of human resources so that our children grow up to become robust citizens, physically fit, mentally alert and morally healthy endowed with the skills of motivations made by the society. Several policies have been adopted thereafter from time to time and legislations have been made according to the nation's commitment to addressing the commitment and challenges in the situations of children and in the recent policy adopted in 2013, protection of children from all sorts of violence, stigma, academic and sexual exploitation or any other activity that harms their personhood and affects their development have been recognized as the priorities. I strongly believe that the best growth and development of childrencan never be the obligation of Government alone but society is equally responsible to ensure that no child is deprived of the usefulness of childhood and opportunity to grow in a healthy manner in the conditions of freedom and dignity so as to ensure that they attain emotional and intellectual maturity that is required to have a rightful place in the society when they grow up.
When the children are denied basic needs of life and education and are deprived of proper pruning and subjected to exploitation or are compelled to grow in an environment of crime, there is every likelihood of such children turning out to be a negative factor for development of the nation. Millions of children n our country today have no access to primary health care, quality education and there is no protection from abuse and exploitation. Ensuring them the perfect childhood with opportunities for development according to their capability, attitudes and knowledge is a topmost priority of every citizen conscious of his duty towards the society and the nation. Perhaps only then there will be a lasting change in the lives of children who are the potential human resources for the progress of the society.
I once again express my appreciation to Justice Sunanda Bhandare for organizing today's lecture on a topic which I am sure will remind everyone that the need of the day is the collective responsibility of all of us to ensure that such opportunities are created for all the children of India flying by leaps and bounds.
With this I conclude.
Thank you Mr. Bhandare for giving me opportunity given to me to associate myself in today's function.
Our very distinguished and esteemed speaker for this evening Shri Kailash Satyarthi, Mr. Murli Bhandare, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Justice Leila Seth, my distinguished guests in the audience, ladies and gentlemen.
While Kailash was speaking to you there were times when one became very emotional also, emotional partly because the issues that touching lives of the children is very emotional. Important because how it is pity that our system in the system is so indifferent and so pathetic towards the problem of child labor and child abuse. I am sure, most of you, would have also felt the same. The emotional appeal that he made, the depth of his conviction with which he spoke, the sensitivity with which he has worked and his full life commitment and sincerity that has been recognized by the people in this country and internationally makes him a great hero for all of us. Having said that I feel it a great honor for me to be invited to be the Guest of Honor in a Memorial Lecture which is in the memory of Mrs. Justice Sunanda Bhandare, a great Judge, not only because of the greatness of the person in whose memory the lecture is organized every year, but also because of the greatness of the contemporary importance of the subject which is chosen for this lecture and also because of the greatness of the crusader of this cause in Kailash Satyarthi.
I propose to compliment Mr Murli Bhandare for being so consistent in organizing these lectures. My experience shows that these lectures are very often started, but over a period of time some amount of fatigue sets in and people start losing interests. But I feel the subjects on which these lectures, series of lectures, have been organized by the Foundation have been so sensitive and so contemporary and their importance that we have all got addicted and we all look forward to the next lecture. As mentioned to you, some of the most distinguished speakers in the past have addressed the gatherings here on subjects of great importance. I congratulate the Foundation and especially Shri Bhandare who is, despite his physical disability and problems of age, showing such great commitment and compassion and sincerity in continuing with this. I can only tell him that even if there is some fatigue in years to come among those who organize the whole event, we, who are the beneficiaries of these lectures, would not let this fatigue overtake us. We would insist on these lectures to be continued because these lectures touch very deep cords on issues that concern us all.Justice Sunanda Bhandare was known to me as a lawyer. I remember this was sometime in early 70s when I first met her. She came to Jammu to argue a matter, which was actually assisting Mr. Murli Bhandare, to argue that case. I still remember the title because I was the local counsel. It is a noted Full Bench Judgment. It was a motor accident case where a chief engineer had met with an accident and we were making a very heavy claim. I had about 2 days' of interaction with her. I found her a very knowledgeable, extremely polished, very articulate coming from a respectable family and very clear headed and no wonder within a few years of that meeting she was picked up to be a Judge of the High Court of Delhi.
As a Judge her connection with us was lost because I was a member of the Bar and I had nothing much to do in Delhi but when I got transfer to Delhi sometime in 2004 I heard from her admirers about stories of her, her kindness, about her competence as a Judge and her compassion. I have ever since then an image about Justice Sunanda Bhandare as one of the finest judges, as a great jurist, that the Delhi High Court had ever seen. Kaialash, as we all know, has given his life for this cause on which he spoke so eloquently today. His is a life of selfless service and his commitment has been recognized, as we all know. But I feel about the whole cause of a child friendly society. That Kailash is not enough by himself. I do not think that the magnitude of problems that we have on this front, one Kailash Satyarthi will bring about a change. I see Kailash Satyarthi as a SOCH (thought) with which each one of us can get connected. If you treat Kailash Satyarthi's movement as a thought and if you can adopt a thought in yourself, you will be doing what Kailash Satyarthi has done. You will be recognized not necessarily by noble prize but you will be recognized by the society as one of Kailash Satyarthi's crusaders. The magnitude of the problem is immense. I can assure you. Even when we have a noble prize winner among us, rapes continue everyday. Prostitution, trafficking, abuse, child labor continue unabated.
This country has 125 crores people, 1.25 billion. By this time Government fixes 50% of its population is below the poverty line and child abuse, trafficking and all ills connected with child prostitution and all are born out of illiteracy and poverty. So the constituency in which we have to work is very large � 125 crores and 1/3rd will be something like 40 crores below the poverty line and if 40 crores below the poverty line have children who are exposed to this problem and the magnitude of this problem, you can understand. It is not just Bachpan Bachao Andolan, one institution that can possibly transform the society and can do it within our life time. It requires a movement � peoples' movement and that is where I say that this movement can be accepted or adopted only in thought. If you accept Satyarthi's movement as a movement on principle and if each one of us adopts that, then alone you can find a solution. Children coming from very very poor families exposed to exploitation, child labor, trafficking - all present a very very sad dimension of our life.
I remember when I was in Delhi High Court as an Executive Chairperson of Legal Authority , we organized a Seminar with the help of Bachpan Bachao Andolan where we invited the employers, the rescued children, the children who were rescued by Satyarthi's Bachpan Bachao Andolan and also we invited children from colleges who were enlightened, who were against this type of exploitation. There are dimensions which need to be addressed. On the same platform we put all the 3 together. This was a unique programme that we organized. Mr. Gupta, Mr. Satyarthi's very close associate, was also associated with this programme.
The problem is more serious than what we can possibly think of. The employers came on the stage and said: "you accuse us of exploiting these children. We first brought these children on the stage and we asked them to speak. Now each one had his own story. We are given a small room to sleep. There is no light. We are not fed properly. We are exploited. There were horror of stories.
Then came the employers. The employers gave their own version. They said that these children were starving on the roads. We picked them up. We brought them to our workshop. Let us say the goldsmith workshop where they make ornaments. They are made to work in goldsmiths workshop or in carpet factories. Their tender hands perhaps are considered to be useful for the ornaments. They say we picked up these children from the streets. They were hungry. They were ill clad and they had nowhere to go. They were either abandoned by their parents or they were liabilities on them. We picked them up. We trained them. We made them work and we gave them a source of livelihood. Today some of these people claim, whom we had trained, own their buildings, they are running their own businesses, whom we had so trained. We have saved these children, the souls who were in distress, was their claim.
From the law enforcement agency side the problem is of one of moral and ethical damage. They say if we rescue the children from the place where they are working, where do we take them? How do we rehabilitate them? If we restore them back to their parents, because they are unable to provide for them, they will push them back to the same trade or the same kind of exploitation process. There is no official, there is no governmental, there is no public mechanism by which rescued children can be properly rehabilitated. Bachpan Bachao Andolan has a shelter home. It has rescued children. But how many such rescued children homes are available all over the country. This is a very very grave problem and I think this requires some amount of convergence not only on the part of NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan but also on the government and the civil society. I think the civil society, if its conscience awakes, if it revolts against what is going on, and if the Government is forced to take measures where such children who are rescued from exploitation, can be rehabilitated and provided opportunities, then it will serve the cause of children. Otherwise this process ,I feel, is an unending process. It is very difficult even to find out the whereabouts of children who have been lost from their families.
Mr. Satyarthi will recall, I mentioned to him about a case, where a woman, completely illiterate started from Assam, some place in Gauhati, in search of her two daughters who had been taken away from her village by one of her close relatives with the hope that they will be employed somewhere. Since the woman did not hear about these young girls anything, she with another son of her age � say 7 years old, set off in search of her daughters. Now you can imagine in this wild open hostile world, an illiterate woman unescorted by her husband, no address where to go, where to look for her two daughters, who have been taken from the village, reaches Delhi. From here she is taken to Punjab where she is made to work as a farm laborer with her 7 years old son. From there she is pushed on to Jammu. In Jammu she is in contact with an agency, Assam agency, which provides helps to people who need it. Dr . Sunil Kotwal, a relative of mine, who has mother suffering from Dimension is told by the brother that you can have a help from this agency. The doctor goes, picks up Bharti as a help for his sick mother. Bharti with her son shifts to the house of the doctor and I happened to meet her on one of my visits to them (Jammu). She weeps and says that her daughters are not visible anywhere. They may have been pushed to prostitution. She has no idea. I felt miserable that even when I am a Supreme Court Judge, I have no means of finding out where the daughters are? I gave the particulars of this lady, her village and telephone to Bhuvan, Satyarthi's son in the hope that they may be able to, because they are working in this field. May be they are in a position to find out where the daughters are? But India is a very large country and for a country the magnitude of the problem is equally large.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan could not locate those daughters. Lady has gone back to Assam disappointed with her son. Her daughters are lost for ever. That is the story. That is something which is so heart rending. We are in a country where rule of raw prevails and we know that these problems of trafficking are prevalent. They are very much prevalent in this system. People are being brought from Jharkhand, from Chhatisgarh, from tribal areas, Assam rural areas, Far East and pushed into all types of processes of exploitation as domestic laborers or elsewhere, worst the prostitution and yet there is no way, there is no centralized agency where one can go and register a complaint that such and such person has been lost and has not been found. As to what happened to them, nobody knows. The mother Bharti has gone back working for about 2 years. Where will she possibly know? Where she can? She is an illiterate lady. Even a Supreme court Judge could render no help to her. I also would not know of a process by which I could possibly look for those girls. All that I could think of was that an NGO, which works in this direction, may be able to do some help. The problem is very very grave and I would say that unless we wake up, we are going to be steeped into this problem for a very long time.
I would only say as Allama Iqbal has said: "NA SAMJHOGE TO MIT JAOGE HINDUSTAN WALO, TUMHARI DASTAN TAK BHEEE NA HOGI DASTAON MEIN".