Shalini Munnuswamy, rejoiced her pass in the school leavers' examination with her parents under their thatched roof house in the southern Indian city of Chennai. Barely earning Rs.100 for each basket of shrimp she cleaned, Shalini was rescued at a tender age of 11 from bonded labour.
"It seemed impossible at one point. There would be constant bickering about money at home and I would go outside with my books to study," Shalini said.
The International Labour Organization's study shows that there are 168 million child workers around the globe, who are aged between five and 17, of which 5.7 million are Indian children. In India, children are put to do petty works in almost every industry. They can be seen embroidering clothes, weaving carpets, making matchsticks, working in hotels, and being servants in middle-class homes.
"It has been a real challenge to identify children working on fishing boats carrying loads of fresh catch or cleaning fish and running errands for the fishermen. It was even more difficult to get them back to books because families relied on the income they brought in." said R. Pramila, a teacher appointed under India's National Child Labour policy who brought Shalini back into the mainstream schooling system.