TIME India

Nobel Co-Winner Kailash Satyarthi: The Whole World Should Protect Children’s Rights

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Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi gestures to journalists at this home office after the announcement of him receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, in New Delhi on October 10, 2014. Chandan Khanna—AFP/Getty Images

Nobel Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi says he wants to work with co-recipient Malala Yousafzai to ensure child rights in India and Pakistan.

Kailash Satyarthi, a relatively unknown child rights activist from India, is sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai, a teen campaigner from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban while going to school in 2012. The reclusive Satyarthi, admittedly nowhere near as famous as his co-recipient, is, however, a messiah for India’s close to 50 million child workers. Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (loosely translated as Movement to Save Childhood) has to date rescued and rehabilitated more than 80,000 child laborers. Just last month, it rescued 24 child workers between the ages of eight and 15 from a bag and shoe making plant in New Delhi.

Apart from freeing children from forced labor, Satyarthi has also successfully created international awareness about child workers issue by organizing global marches. The international social tag “Rugmark,” created by Satyarthi, is a widely recognized guarantee that a rug or carpet was made in a child labor-free factory. India is the world’s largest exporter of handmade carpets, and a recent report by Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human rights estimates that out of around two million carpet workers in India, approximately 400,000 are underage laborers. The attention his prize has created around the issue of child labor just in the last few hours, Satyarthi says, is overwhelming.

TIME spoke to Satyarthi Saturday about winning the Nobel Peace Prize. This interview has been edited and condensed for space.

TIME: For probably the first time, the entire world and India especially is talking about child rights and child labor, which was a fringe issue. How does that make you feel?

Satyarthi: It’s the biggest-ever recognition for the plight, struggle and issue of child labor worldwide. It will give tremendous impetus to our fight and will undoubtedly inspire hundreds and thousands of social activists and non-profits on the ground, all over the world. The amount of conversations it has created around child labor in the last 6 to 7 hours has not been seen in the last 600 years.

You received the award jointly with Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan are struggling to ensure child rights. Can they work together towards solutions?

I spoke to Malala yesterday after the prize was announced, and invited her to join an additional dimension in the fight for child rights, and that is the right to be free. No child should be born or grow [up] into violence and conflict in any part of the world. Saying that, why just India and Pakistan? The whole world should work together to protect child rights. This is the 25th year of U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and to celebrate this, there is a need on the part of all stakeholders — the civil society, the masses, governments, corporates and even religious institutions — to accept collective responsibility [and stand up to this social evil].

Not many in India knew Kailash Satyarthi before Friday – did you deliberately keep yourself away from the public eye?

I don’t believe in personality cults; I don’t believe in personal image building exercises. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is not merely a non-profit or social or political movement for me – it is my life’s mission. We work in thousands of villages in India and over 140 countries, with limited reach, manpower and resources. The choice was either to invest in image building or in building the movement.

What has been your biggest challenge in the last three decades?

My biggest challenge was, and still is, changing social mindsets and working around political priorities. Child labor is a non-issue in India. It is a social evil and a development disaster. Indians treat poor children either as beggars, giving them food and clothes in charity or employ them as child laborers. There is nothing in between. And when it comes to the notion of child rights, there is zero awareness. I have been fighting to establish that notion, concept and eventually culture that teaches one to respect childhood and treat children with the dignity and respect they deserve.

How is your work different from that of other child rights organizations?

We believe in direct action. We want to free children from modern day slavery and ensure they receive proper rehabilitation. We avoid taking the overall responsibilities of the overall rehabilitation of hundreds and thousands of children as we have limited resources and manpower. What we have instead tried doing is to build a social movement around the issue rather than being a conventional non-profit.

Despite your limited resources, you did not keep your movement confined to India. Instead, you took it to the world stage through your global marches against child labor.

Child labor is not an isolated problem. There are geopolitical issues. There are transnational corporations and industries; there are globalized markets and economies and all these cumulatively create and perpetuate child labor globally. The issues are globally interlinked and that is why it is critical that we build a worldwide movement.

 

TIME India

India’s Kailash Satyarthi Wins Nobel Peace Prize for Fighting Child Labor

Indian Children Right Activist Kailash Satyarthi Won 2014 Nobel Peace Prize
Indian childrens right activist and 2014 Nobel peace prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi greets media persons and well-wishers at his residence after the announcement of prize on October 10, 2014 in New Delhi, India. Hindustan Times—Hindustan Times via Getty Images

He's been leading India's fight against child slavery

Updated Saturday, Oct. 11

Since early evening on Friday, many in India were furiously searching the web for the name “Kailash Satyarthi” as it started trending on social media. This was right after the Nobel Prize committee in Sweden announced that Satyarthi, from India, was one of this year’s (and India’s second) Nobel Peace Prize winners.

The highly coveted Nobel Peace Prize goes out every year to trailblazers in world peace and activism. U.S. President Barack Obama, Mother Teresa, the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Burmese political activist Aung San Suu Kyi and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela are just some of the world’s foremost leaders who have won the award.

But Satyarthi is nowhere as well known as any of them. In fact, he’s even lesser known than his young co-recipient Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen activist shot in the head by the Taliban while going to school in 2012 and has since been fighting for children’s right to education in her home country and abroad.

But the 60-year-old New Delhi-based activist, originally from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, has been almost singlehandedly leading India’s fight against child slavery for over three decades. To that end, he founded a grassroots nonprofit, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save Childhood Movement, in 1980, which has to date rescued more than 80,000 Indian children from various forms of exploitation, like child labor and child trafficking.

India has one of the largest working child populations in the world. There are close to 50 million child laborers in the country, more than 10 million of them in bonded labor, having been sold by their families to work off loans they couldn’t repay.

But despite the remarkable success of his organization, Satyarthi, who is trained as an electrical engineer, has preferred working almost anonymously in the backdrop. His work has involved organizing almost weekly raids on Indian manufacturing plants and other workplaces that employ children often forced into bonded labor. Since 2001, Satyarthi’s organization has convinced families in more than 300 Indian villages across 11 states to avoid sending their children to work, and instead put them in school and send them to various youth programs.

“He never wanted his name to come before the work of the organization,” R.S. Chaurasia, chairperson of the movement and Satyarthi’s long time associate, told TIME. “Very few people have the kind of conviction he possesses.”

Satyarthi’s biggest achievement, however, has been to grab and retain the world’s glare on the problem. He organized the Global March Against Child Labor in the 1990s to raise awareness and free millions of children shackled in various forms of modern slavery.

“To employ children is illegal and unethical,” Satyarthi has written on the Global March Against Child Labor website. “If not now, then when? If not you, then who? If we are able to answer these fundamental questions, then perhaps we can wipe away the blot of human slavery.”

He also founded the widely recognized international tag “RugMark” that guarantees carpets being sold were made in factories free of child labor. India is the largest exporter of handmade carpets and a large number of the weavers are underage child workers. Satyarthi hopes his prize will renew focus on the plight of these children.

“It’s the biggest ever recognition for the struggle of these children and the issue of child labor worldwide,” Satyarthi had told TIME over the phone on Saturday morning. “The amount of conversations it has created around the issue in the last six to seven hours has not been seen in the last 600 years!”

In one of his initial reactions to the award, Satyarthi told an Indian news channel that he hopes the recognition will once again bring and keep the spotlight on the exploitation of children globally. In India, for sure, the often-fringe topic of child labor has gained some mainstream clout—and Satyarthi’s Nobel prize will only bring more.

TIME India

In Unpredictable India, Security Services Embrace the Drone Revolution

Members of Sikh community stage a protest demonstration in Jammu against Uttar Pradesh government
Members of the Sikh community shout slogans as they burn tires during a protest in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on July 27, 2014. Jaipal Singh—EPA

South Asia's diverse topography, chaotic overpopulation and vast, unplanned cities make drones especially useful

Late last month, a land dispute in Saharanpur, in north India’s Uttar Pradesh state, snowballed into a riot between the local Sikh and Muslim communities, leaving three people dead and injuring over a dozen. Sadly, such clashes are nothing new in this highly polarized state of 200 million. Just last year, communal violence in nearby Muzaffarnagar district claimed 62 lives.

Nevertheless, there was something novel about how this latest bout of violence was addressed. The state’s police called upon a young entrepreneur to help monitor and advise security operations using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more popularly known as drones.

Within hours, drone cameras were up and running in Saharanpur town, keeping close tabs on the volatile and unfolding situation, even in areas security personnel couldn’t reach by car or foot. This helped direct resources to where they were needed most.

“Some of the roads and streets in Saharanpur — and this is pretty typical of most Indian towns — are so narrow that the forces cannot enter there,” says Ankit Mehta, co-founder and CEO of IdeaForge, which manufactures UAVs in India. “But a drone-assisted camera can easily fly in and monitor the situation for the cops.”

In India, drone entrepreneurs like Mehta have been quick to realize that the nation’s diverse topography, chaotic overpopulation and vast, unplanned cities severely hobble traditional security operations, making airborne technology particularly advantageous.

Drones are now being used for monitoring large public gatherings — such as Ramadan processions in Lucknow, also in Uttar Pradesh, where sectarian clashes last year claimed three lives — which frequently spiral out of control due to large, unwieldy crowds. (India regularly suffers stampede-related tragedies.)

More conventionally, drones have also been used in disaster management. Last year, they played a low-key but invaluable role in relief operations in Uttarakhand, a hilly and inhospitable terrain where flash floods killed thousands and displaced many more.

Another Mumbai-based drone company called Airpix partnered with NGOs to carry out aerial surveillance of the flood-hit areas for rebuilding purposes, better planning and enhanced communications. Airpix also helps the Mumbai police monitor major gatherings including Ganesh Chaturthi, an Indian festival that culminates with hundreds of thousands of devotees ferrying idols to be immersed in the sea, creating traffic gridlock all over the city.

But despite a bevy of humanitarian and public-safety work, the image of drones as instruments of war remains hard to shake off. “The misconception that drones are meant more for destructive purposes seems to still linger around,” says Shinil Shekar, head of sales and marketing at Airpix. “And it is important that people be more educated about their potential civilian applications.”

Even so, India is tipped to be “booming” for micro and mini-unmanned aerial vehicles for both civilian and military use by the U.S.-based Advanced Defense Technologies Inc., which calls the market a “multimillion-dollar business that will grow steadily.”

Certainly, Mehta is confident about the future; IdeaForge currently boasts an annual turnover in excess of $1 million, and Mehta expects this to increase by five or six times this year. “It is a scalable opportunity for indigenous entrepreneurs,” he says.

TIME India

India Is Home to More Poor People Than Anywhere Else on Earth

Poverty of slums at New Delhi
Slum dwellers lead their life in poverty and unhealthy conditions in New Delhi, India on March 10, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

"We don't have to be proud of what we've done," one minister says

One third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people live in India, according to the latest Millennium Development Goals report by the U.N.

India only managed to reduce its poverty rate (the ratio of the number of people who fall below the poverty line and a country’s total population) from 49.4% in 1994 to 42% in 2005 and 32.7% in 2010. By contrast, regional rival China brought it down from 60% in 1990 to an impressive 16% in 2005 and just 12% in 2010.

India also accounted for the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children not reaching their fifth birthday.

“We don’t have to be proud of what we’ve done,” admitted minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla to the Times Of India on Wednesday. “Poverty is the biggest challenge.”

TIME India

India Sees Red Over $33 Million Statue in PM Modi’s First Budget

India Budget
An Indian worker carries a sack containing copies of the 2014-15 union budget at the Indian parliament in New Delhi, Thursday, July 10, 2014. Manish Swarup—AP Photo

Opponents accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi of putting the reverence of long-dead founding fathers over the safety of India's women

India’s new budget is courting controversy after $33 million was earmarked for a statue of national icon Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, but only $25 million for women’s safety and $16.5 million for the education of young girls.

The iron-and-bronze structure, to be erected in new Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, will stand at 182 m tall — twice New York’s Statue of Liberty — and so become the new tallest statue in the world.

However, the project would appear an odd priority for a nation battling rising inflation, a sluggish economy and quickly gaining a reputation as the rape capital of the world. “It is surprising,” says Mumbai-based author Chandrima Pal. “Especially since one of Modi’s key poll pegs was security for women and he ran a massive campaign around that.”

The total cost of immortalizing Patel, who was Home Minister in the government of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is estimated at some $338 million, the rest to be filled by donations and private-sector investment.

But public opposition to the statue is growing — the project was rated “most disliked” on the website of NDTV news channel, and the Times of India newspaper started a social-media survey asking the loaded question of whether the project was “wasteful expenditure.” Mayank Jain, a youth activist and a finance student in the capital, New Delhi, decried a “complete failure of prioritization.”

The Modi government, though, would appear unmoved. Despite the uproar, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said during a postbudget chitchat with NDTV that he had “absolutely no regrets.”

TIME India

More Children Are Going to School in India, but They’re Learning Less

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An Indian teacher assists underprivileged children during their lessons at Palodia village of Gandhinagar district, some 25 kms from Ahmedabad on November 21, 2013. Sam Panthaky—AFP/Getty Images

India's woeful state schools are in stark contrast to the country's lofty goals of becoming a nation of call centers and technology parks

The fifth-grade boys and girls at school in Sultanpur — a village about 40 km from the Indian capital, New Delhi — are laboring over their lessons on a Friday morning. Eleven-year-old Kiran alternates between chewing her pencil and copying the English text that was the morning’s task. She writes down the sentences, arduously capitalizing the first letter of every word. The children have not yet grasped the basics of English grammar, the teacher explains. But they should have – at least three grades earlier.

“I cannot read English very well,” Kiran mumbles, keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the ground. She adds as an afterthought, “I know my tables till 20 in Hindi though.”

As a new World Bank study has found, there’s a literacy problem in Indian schools, and not just in English. A third of all grade-three students can’t read at all in their native language. Roughly half of all grade-five students cannot manage a grade-two text, which is also too difficult for a quarter of all seventh-grade pupils.

This decline in standards, experts say, is paradoxically because of the rush to build schools and bring back children to the education fold. India managed to bring down the number of out-of-school children from 32 million in 2001 to 1.4 million in 2011 as part of a program to make elementary education universal. The landmark Right to Education Act of 2009 guarantees every child in India between the ages of 6 and 14 free education at a neighborhood school.

And yet, amid this headlong drive, little attention has been paid to what children are learning in classrooms or how well. Absenteeism (the World Bank study pegs average attendance to be at least 15% to 30% lower than enrollment rates) and misconduct (recently, about 20,000 teachers were found to have forged their degrees in the eastern Indian state of Bihar) are big contributors to poor standards of education. “India will have to invest more, starting with pre-service teacher education and professional development of teachers,” says Poonam Batra, a professor in the education department at the University of Delhi and a member of the Justice Verma commission, which has suggested sweeping reforms in the education sector.

All this is in stark contrast to India’s lofty goals of becoming a nation of call centers and technology parks, and to the image it enjoys overseas as a powerhouse of learning, turning out English-speaking engineering and science graduates by the tens of thousands. Despite the fact that private schools, promising world-class education in English, have been mushrooming in the country over the past few years, standards of English are also on the wane. “The average Indian adult cannot yet write business letters in English or speak spontaneously at a business meeting in English,” Minh N. Tran, director of research and academic partnerships at Education First, tells TIME.

Enrollment in private schools in rural India increased from 19% in 2006 to 29% in 2013. In urban India it was about 58% in 2005 and likely to be much higher now. But it is in the state sector that the real battle must be fought. “Countries that have done well economically have had robust state schools and teacher-education systems,” says Batra.

New Delhi has raised government spending on education from 3.3% of GDP in 2004–05 to 4% in 2011–12 (China spends about the same, but Brazil and Russia are well ahead). But facilities remain woeful. In Indian state schools, children have to sit on the floor until they reach grade six. “My feet goes off to sleep sometimes, and I lose track of the class,” says Kiran. “A desk and a chair would be very nice.” For most Indian children, the battles are that basic.

TIME India

Are Indians As Nonchalant About Rape as This Video Suggests?

A social experiment in New Delhi shows people walking away from a staged rape. A film of a parked van in New Delhi, from which harrowing female screams were emanating, shows many people walking past nonchalantly, ignoring cries for help.

Two weeks ago, India woke up to the gruesome image of two teenage girls who had been raped and left hanging from a mango tree in rural Uttar Pradesh. This shocking act was just the latest in a series of outrages, since the Dec. 16, 2012, murder and gang rape of a student in New Delhi, that have sparked nationwide angst and given India worldwide notoriety for sexual violence.

But with rape and assault taking center stage once again, how many Indians would actually try to help a woman being attacked? A group called YesNoMaybe staged a social experiment to find out, filming a van in the Indian capital from which harrowing female screams were emanating.

The video, which has already garnered more than 850,000 hits on YouTube, showed many people walking past nonchalantly, ignoring desperate pleas for help. One or two, it must be noted, were determined to intervene — including a 78-year-old security guard who tried to bash the vehicle’s doors with his stick. There is hope.

TIME Pakistan

After Sunday’s Siege of Karachi Airport, Pakistani Militants Strike Again

No deaths were reported and flights have now resumed

Militants ambushed the campus of a training academy belonging to Pakistan’s Airport Security Force (ASF) on Tuesday afternoon and exchanged fire with security forces.

No one is believed to have died in the attack, although local media is reporting several wounded.

Pakistan’s Geo TV says the situation is now under control and security forces are conducting a door-to-door search of the area to apprehend the assailants.

The academy lies near Karachi’s international airport, which was under siege by Pakistani Taliban militants on Sunday night. Some 36 people died in that attack, including 10 Taliban gunmen

The Associated Press quoted Ghulam Abbas Memon, a spokesman for the ASF, saying Tuesday’s assault involved gunmen trying to enter the campus from two different entrances but who were repelled by security forces.

An AFP report had earlier quoted an ASF official spokesman as saying gunmen exchanged fire with security personnel at a checkpoint half a kilometer from the airport.

The assault is believed to be in retaliation for Pakistani military air strikes on a tribal district earlier Tuesday that killed 15 militants. Those strikes were, in turn, apparently in response to Monday’s airport attack.

All flights from Karachi’s international airport were briefly suspended but have now apparently resumed.

TIME Pakistan

Karachi Airport Witness Describes ‘Pure Chaos’ of Attacks

PAKISTAN-UNREST-KARACHI-AIRPORT
Smoke rises after militants launched an early morning assault at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan on June 9, 2014. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP/Getty Images

Kamal Faridi, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Karachi, told TIME what it was like to be caught up in the Taliban assault that left at least 23 dead

Taliban gunmen besieged Karachi airport on Sunday, killing at least 23 people. Kamal Faridi, a 29-year-old Information Technology entrepreneur based in Karachi, was traveling to Germany via Dubai on Sunday night and got caught in the melee.

Faridi had checked in for his Emirates flight around 11pm on Sunday, and was waiting in the lounge for the boarding announcement. “Suddenly we heard some gun shots, which we thought were fireworks,” Faridi told TIME. “Then we saw the security forces taking position outside the lounge.”

“They asked us to lie down on the ground and hide ourselves against the furniture as the lounge was covered in glass. In another 10-15 minutes more security personnel had arrived and huddled us to another room.”

“Initially there was pure chaos as we didn’t know what was happening and everyone thought they were going to die. Within ten minutes we were told of the terrorist attack.”

The commandos told Faridi and his fellow travelers that some unidentified gunmen had taken control of the old terminal – which is more like an administrative wing and only caters to VIP and Hajj flights – which lies 2-3 kilometers away from where Faridi was waiting to board his flight. The old terminal had no passenger flights, fortunately.

Faridi said a “resigned, even fearful calm” fell upon the room where they were waiting. “Apart from the whimpers of children, it was quiet, only to be broken by a loud cheer of ‘Allahu Akbar’ when we heard on the security force wireless that a few of the terrorists had been shot down.”

“We were instructed not to receive calls or take pictures,” he said. “We lay crouching on the ground for almost 4-5 hours, by which time the security forces had announced thrice that they would evacuate us, but weren’t able to.”

“Crouching on the ground, shutting my ears and sometimes eyes tightly, I could still see the flashes of gun shots. They would stop for a second and it would all be a deathly quiet before it would start again in an interminable shower.”

Around 3.30am one of the officers came to evacuate Faridi and his co-travelers. Shaken, Faridi went straight home.

“In Pakistan it’s almost a war situation. Everyone knows anything can happen any moment and we are prepared for any eventuality,” he said. “But it’s different when you find yourself in the middle of a terror attack. The five-hour ordeal was a trauma for me. If I close my eyes I can still hear the shots ringing out and I jump in my mind.”

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