He is not a charismatic person. Most unassuming, the man's look, however, betrays his erudition and high profile as a social and child rights activist. Many have campaigned against social and economic inequality down the history of human civilisation. But few have put forward arguments as convincingly and with as much conviction as he does. It is an inner glow radiating from a vision of the future that really helps him go about the business so confidently. It is exactly for this reason, a humble man Kailash Satyarthi can take the fight to the most powerful and rich people without giving the slightest indication that he is an adversary to them. In fact, his campaign is so unpretentious that even the perpetrators feel embarrassed in his presence for the monumental follies they commit.
In his keynote speech at the 136th congregation of the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) held in Dhaka, it was no exception. He made a case for greater investment in child education. His is a simple argument in favour of education for all children of the world. Only $22 billion is enough for education of the world's children. He poses the question, 'is the world so poor that it cannot spend this amount of money on education of children?' He then adds, the amount is equivalent to three and a half days' defence budget of the world.
He rightly reasons that deprived of education and a decent living, children are more likely to grow violent. As many as 9,000 children are dying due to hunger and poverty everyday across the world. Satyarthi accuses the world for not being caring enough to protect these children. He does not consider this natural death but plain murder. Children by no means are responsible for such untimely death but the adults are who start and prolong wars, the fallouts of which are the prime cause of their death.
Those who survive to experience the hostility of society hardly find an avenue to realise their potential. It is not a failure of the young ones; it is the failure of the state in which they are born and brought up. A man of his calibre alone can declare that children have no colour, race and religion. They are equal to each other. Subjecting them to neglect is a crime, let alone abusing them and forcing them to labour. Each child is full of energy with unlimited possibility. When the state fails to make good use of their energy and potential, they have every chance of unleashing those for destructive purposes. An answer to the rise of militancy surely lies here.
Deprivation of education and opportunities is at the root of socio-economic disparities all over the world. The Nobel laureate observes that the reason behind yawning income gap is lack of education and opportunities. Now the brazen maldistribution of wealth has assumed the form of an economic violence. Or else, wealth possessed by only eight superrich persons would not have been equal to the total owned by half of the world population. Instead of inequality in income getting reduced, it is rising alarmingly. Satyarthi cites an example on the rising inequality in income. Earlier the ratio of income distribution between the top management and worker was 20:1 but now it has become 200:1.
Satyarthi does not need to tell how the world is edging towards intolerance, friction, hostility and violence. Anyone can see that the world is likely to find itself in a man-made deeper turmoil. Rising discriminations and disparities can thus explain a segment of young people's fatal addiction to violence and militancy out of frustration. Unless the economic or income disparities are addressed in an effective way to bring those to a tolerable level, world peace will always be under threat. Mistrust and hatred will sour relations between and among peoples.
At the IPU conference, the right people were in the audience Satyarthi addressed. He was quite aware of this and appealed to the people's representative to start working for children in their respective country. Before it is too late, focus should be on child education and health. It is time the concept of development put children at the centre so that the process of economic disparities stood no chance of diminishing a nation's prospect on account of neglect to children.
He has called upon the members of parliament of the world to join in a campaign the Nobel laureates have initiated. It is his fervent request that the parliamentarians visit schools in their localities everywhere on September 20 next and spend time with children. The Nobel laureates will do the same. What a nice idea! To be among the school children in one's locality itself is a great event for both MPs and children. But will it be hassle-free? The need is to go to them in a humble manner and mix freely with them so that children can consider such dignitaries mere friends. This is unlikely to happen under the present circumstances.
Satyarthi may not have mentioned the purpose of such a visit. But all he will hope is that the people's representatives educate themselves in the Tolstoyan philosophy of getting down to the status of children to book a passage to heaven. In this context, the grownups need to learn more from children than the vice versa. There indeed lies the key to making the world a better place to live in.