MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, chess champion Viswanathan Anand and Bollywood stars took to Twitter this week to support a campaign against child labor, using their fame to draw greater attention to the issue.
The campaign, launched by Indian insurer Reliance General Insurance and children's rights NGO Child Rights and You (CRY), used the hashtag #DONT_EMPLOY_LITTLE_ONES to urge people to promise not to use child labor. Bollywood stars Soha Ali Khan and Mandira Bedi also tweeted their support.
"Every child deserves to chase dreams. Let dreams be chased," Tendulkar tweeted. The former India captain's tweet was retweeted almost 2,000 times and liked nearly 5,000 times.
There are 5.7 million Indian child workers aged between five and 17, out of 168 million globally, according to the International Labour Organization.
More than half the Indian children work in agriculture, toiling in cotton, sugarcane and rice paddy fields, and over a quarter in manufacturing, embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making matchsticks. Children also work in restaurants and hotels, and in middle-class homes.
"Millions of children in India, engaged in labor, are battling minimum wages, long working hours, suffering abuse and exploitation and being brutally deprived of their basic rights," CRY director Anita Bala Sharad said in a statement.
The campaign also asks people to stop using restaurants and other businesses that employ child labor, and to ensure out-of-school children and their parents are made aware of the law that guarantees free education up to the age of 14.
"We firmly believe that every single citizen has a moral obligation to ensure that child safety - a child’s right to safety and a safe environment - is not taken away from children," Reliance General CEO Rakesh Jain said in the statement.
Non-profits in India are increasingly taking to social media to raise awareness of causes including domestic violence and child labor. There are estimated to be more than 350 million internet users and more than 134 million active social media users in the country.
(Reporting by Rina Chandran, editing by Tim Pearce. using Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)