Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to give three months' impunity from prosecution or other punitive action to all employers of child labourers if they voluntarily release children confined inside factories and other work places during this period.
In a letter to the prime minister, Satyarthi said he is making this "unusual" request due to the "ideological and emotional dilemma" in such an extraordinary situation.
"I am saying what I am feeling. They are all our children and our children must not die. We have failed in saving our children from child labour and exploitation, they must be saved from hunger and desperation. The life of every single child is above everything else," he wrote.
"The demand for a notification to give impunity to employers of child labourers for three months is the last thing that I would have ever thought in my life. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary steps and I strongly feel that in order to save the lives of lakhs of children trapped in slavery and child labour across the country, this step is the only option left now," Satyarthi said in the letter.
Satyarthi rued that while the child labourers would not be paid their full wages earlier, they are not being provided food now. The employers have fled to the safety of their own homes, he said.
"These children, who work in factories located in Jaipur, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi and other cities, were trafficked from different states and forced into labour. And now, even our activists are not being able to reach the children because of rules and regulations of the lockdown," Satyarthi asserted in his letter.
Urging the government to make proper provisions for food, safety, shelter and medical treatment for the children released during the lockdown, Satyarthi said, if required, the help and assistance of local NGOs should be taken. Besides, he offered all possible support from his organization as well.
Seeking quick, timely and safe repatriation of the children once the lockdown is lifted, Satyarthi sought constitution of an inter-ministerial task force to formulate and implement a strong action plan for combating the sudden spike in child trafficking once some semblance of normalcy is restored after COVID-19.