Scrooge is alive and well in the teeming nation of India with its more than 1.25 billion people, many of whom live in abject poverty. A few hours ago, police and child welfare workers from Global March for Children broke off the padlocks and busted in the doors of a building in the city of Delhi. To the horror and disgust of all involved, authorities found 14 children, some as young as eight years of age, living in tiny six by six foot rooms. The emaciated youngsters were being forced to work as slaves for 19 hours a day making Christmas ornaments to be sold in the United States and other Western nations.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, United Nations special envoy for global education, spoke out about the torment and abuse suffered by these and many other children who are sold into slavery in under developed nations, often by their own families in order to buy the food they need just to survive another few days.
Brown was stunned by the plight of these children, and he urged people to end their suffering:
“There is no parent in the world who would ever want their child to be subjected to conditions that you see in these films of children in dingy basements, without air, without food, without proper care, being forced into child labor for all these hours of the day. I think every parent who sees these films will want this practice brought to an end as quickly as possible.”
The angry former Prime Minister also wants the Indian government to impose serious criminal penalties on anyone caught enslaving children and using them for forced labor.
“I want the pressure on these employers, the gangmasters, the slave employers. But I also want the pressure on governments so they make sure the police are telling employers that if they are caught hiring child laborers, they will be prosecuted.”
It is hard for those of us living in the affluent West to even comprehend the poverty that might force a parent to decide to sacrifice a child so the rest of the family might eat. More often than not, desperate parents are preyed upon by professional gangs, who send smooth talking recruiters to remote villages and promise to provide a child with education, regular meals, and money to send home to the family in exchange for a few short hours a day of “easy work.”
Instead, the family never hears from their child again, and the innocent youngster is doomed to life of slavery, forced labor, and, most likely, an early death. Some unfortunate children are worked until they collapse and then their organs are sold to middle men for the booming trade in transplant organs that has plagued India in recent years.
There is little we can do in the West to prevent the products of slave labor from entering the market. Experts advise shoppers to be on the look out for Christmas ornaments that are selling for far less than normal, especially if they are marked as hand made.
Surprisingly, while India has laws against dangerous working conditions, the nation has yet to ban child labor. Gordon Brown urges everyone to sign a petition to free innocent children from slavery and demand they be provided with food and education. Children belong in school, playing with their friends, or being hugged by loving parents, not forced to engage in endless labor in a sweatshop.
“Sign the petition asking the Indian government to take action immediately … so that another year does not go past with the complacency about child labor. The holidays are a time when we should be celebrating, but we’re actually unfortunately exploiting young children.”