“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems” is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that stands against the tests of time.
The majority, who read about the tragedies that befall society, will shake their heads in disbelief, and mutter a comment about the travesties of the world, before then proceeding with the rest of their day. Even more so for the average 22-year-old, caught in a whirlwind of activities that often include studying, working, dating or partying into the wee hours. This was not the case for a 22-year-old, second-year BBA student from Ahmedabad, India, who dared where most would be guilty of turning a blind eye.
According to the TOI, Jharna Joshi first noticed a bus transporting children, while on holiday at a relative’s house in Morbi, Gujrat. Spurred by tenacious intuition, she was determined to uncover the truth. Putting her own life at risk, she got a job at Sonaki Ceramics, a leading manufacturer of expensive and fine bone crockery that exports its products globally.
"I told them that I was a management student and applied for office work. However, they had no vacancy and offered me work in pasting and design of cups and saucers. In 15 days, I saw most of these children were below 18 years, and they were forced to work in hostile conditions," Jharna said.
She quickly unearthed a truth with a hideous face. The factory workers consisted predominantly of children, forced to work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in dangerous conditions. They were exposed to high temperature furnaces, with no breaks or food and water.
In vain, she petitioned local authorities to take action. After her messages continuously fell on deaf ears, she contacted the Gujarat Chief Minister, Kantilal Amrutiya and travelled to Gandhinagar to demand a course of action. Not long after, officials raided the factory and rescued 111 children, 100 of whom were girls.
It was said to be the biggest child worker rescue mission in the area, renown for its industrial factories that manufacture popular ceramics, clocks and jewellery that are shipped all over the world.
The Social Defence Officer of Rajkot, Kanaksinh Zala said, "The entire credit to this rescue operation goes to Jharna who should be honoured. It takes immense courage to undertake such a covert operation."
Yet such courageous acts come with their own consequences. Very soon after, Jharna was attacked by two men and sustained injuries to her face, arms and legs.
“They halted me by crossing my way and asked if I was Jharna the girl who rescued child labourers. Just as I said ‘yes’, they attacked me,” she told Gujarati channel Sandesh News.
She admitted that there were more factories, whose names she did not disclose, that were involved in child labour. “The physical harassments can’t stop me. I will continue to fight against the injustice and for the welfare of the kids,” she said defiantly to 7pm. Unicef estimates that 150 million children worldwide are being exploited by child labour. In poorer countries, 1 in 4 children are forced to work in conditions that are dangerous. Exploitation remains a black stain that festers within the underbelly of poverty-stricken areas, where families cannot afford to send their children to school and rely on their ability to be breadwinners.
Sonaki’s website is now offline, but what of the other factories operating under similar circumstances? What of the other millions of children in these deplorable existences? Will the average reader shake his or her head in disbelief, and mutter a comment about the travesties of the world, before then proceeding with the rest of the day?
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