Shouldn’t child labour law apply to child artistes?

SUMA RAMANNA writes: We fall in love with a young boy endorsing a telephone company. We are proud that Master Kishen has entered the Guiness Book of Records. We consider child stars in movies and television serials, and kids modelling in paint and cool drinks advertisements, as very talented. But are they really so?

Should we be admiring these young children or should we be mourning the death of innocence—the disheartening sight of young children being denied their legitimate childhood? Children who, instead of studying and playing as children of their age do, are slogging like adults?

The law of the land bans child labour. This is to enable children to do what they should be doing. But as you look at these “tiny adults”, you wonder if the law is applicable only to those children who work for lesser wages—children who work as coolies, maids, servants?

The question I ask myself when I see these young good-looking kids, don’t they come under this law? Is it not necessary for them to enjoy their childhood as other children do? Just because they are paid more than the other “labourers” of their age, is it not necessary for them to study and play?

The argument can be made that most child artistes and models only have to spare a few hours unlike child workers who have to work eight to twelve hours. Maybe, but there are many child artistes who work in more than one serial or a film. Surely, they definitely miss out on their schooling?

Ambitious parents, who push their children to attain their 15 minutes of fame before they are 15, will always claim that their children are very sharp and they can catch up with their studies even if they miss some classes. If it’s true, doesn’t this undue place pressure on the child’s mind?

If it doesn’t, and if the child can indeed catch up with the rest of the class because of his or her brilliance, can’t parents who send their children to work in the fields or in a house or restaurant also come up with the same explanation?

At least the parents of such children have a legitimate reason to send their child to work. Whatever the child earns adds to the kitty and enables all in the family to get three square meals. On the other hand, in most cases, there is no compelling financial reason for the parents of child artistes to rush them off to the sets and studios?

Then, why is this discrimination between children? Is it because of the amount of money involved? Or does the glamour of the entertainment world blind us to the sad realities of those working in it?

Make no mistake. We enjoy the work of child artistes. They are spontaenous, some of them are also successful . But at what (and whose) price?

I was watching an interview of Khushboo some days back on a news channel. She was asked if she would allow her daughters to enter the film world. She said yes, but only after they completed their studies.

“It is not because I give much importance to studies but because I want them to enjoy all their school and college moments. I don’t want them to lose the freedom of moving around with friends which I lost only because I started my career as a child artiste.”

Food for thought, anybody?