Chennai: Paadhugaapana Kuzhandhai, roared Bengali Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi in Tamil, and hundreds of students of Stella Maris College roared back in unison, Paadhugaapana Bharatham, as they marched along with the icon of Indian childrens rights on the third day of his Bharat Yatra here today.
Bharat Yatra, a clarion call to make India safe again for children and protect them against sexual abuse and child labour, started by Kailash Satyarthi, was fl agged off from Kanyakumari on 11 September and will culminate in New Delhi on 16 October, covering 11,000 km across 22 States. Today, the yatra arrived in Chennai and the students took out a symbolic march to raise awareness on child safety.
Sangeetha Sekar (16), a child labourer who went on to represent India in the homeless football world cup for underprivileged people, wowed the audience with her straight-fromthe-heart speech. The government does not bother about us. I was a child labourer and when I was selected for the world cup, I was not able to get a passport as I did not have any address.
Now with the help of an NGO, I was able to get a passport. Because of their support I was able to participate in the world cup and now Im studying Economics. To abolish child labour in India, the government should enforce compulsory education till the 12th standard. There are many people like me who have big dreams and we are not able to realise them because of society. It is people like us, who struggle and come up in life, who make a better society.
The government keeps campaigning for Clean India, but why doesnt it pledge itself to work for a poverty-less India? she asked and brought everyone in the audience to get up and applaud. Speaking after Sangeetha, Satyarthi said, This is the anger which is needed. Young people like Sangeetha are not just our future, but our present. Society should recognise and respect the power of youth.
The youths anger is the power, wealth and energy needed to challenge and change society and should be put to constructive use. We are the land of Buddha and Gandhi; Periyar, Thiruvalluvar and Bharathi who changed society for the better and we must work like them. This is a war on rape, sexual abuse and traffi cking and together you and I will win this war, he added. Talking about sexual abuse of children, he said, Only 4 per cent of child sex abusers in India are convicted.
Ninetysix per cent of the cases against abusers are pending. Some cases take 40 years to dispose of. We dont have enough judicial infrastructure. We demand that in every district in India, a dedicated court to deal with children cases should be set up. Fast track child friendly courts must come up. The judiciary, Constitution and nation is in danger if children are in danger.
The yatra will cover important cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Guwahati, Bhopal, Jaipur and Srinagar among others. Kailash Satyarthi has been campaigning for the freedom, safety and security for children across the globe for the past 36 years. His Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 was for his continuous efforts and struggle for the rights children.
The yatra is the launch of the three-year campaign against child rape and child sexual abuse which is aimed at increasing awareness and reporting of the cases, strengthening institutional response including medical health and compensations, ensuring protection for victims and witnesses during trials and increasing convictions of child sexual abuse in a time-bound manner.