Rag-picking girls’ date with prime minister Saturday

June 13th, 2009 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) It was a dream come true for 12-year-old Useeran Sheikh, a rag-picker, as she shook hands with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday, and requested abolition of child labour and quality education for all children in the country.
Sheikh with two other rag-picker children met the prime minister at his 7 Race Course Road residence in the capital.

“I liked it very much. This is the first time I am meeting the prime minister. I never thought this would ever happen to us,” Sheikh said excitedly after leaving the Prime Ministers’ House.

In the meeting that lasted a bare two-three minutes, the three children, dressed in their best, handed over a letter to the prime minister requesting abolition of child labour and compulsory education.

“We go to a government school from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then come back and work as rag-pickers from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. We pay a fee of Rs.110 for three months and it is very difficult for our families to afford the amount. We fear any time we might have to leave the studies,” Sheikh said.

Renu Pasman, who dreams of becoming Miss India, said: “The prime minister shook my hand and said ‘good girl, good girl’. We asked for his autograph, but he said there was no time.”

The children’s meeting with the prime minister was organised by child rights organisation Save the Children.

“The law says children under 14 should not work, yet there are rag-pickers. We should go to school, we should be allowed to study without paying fees. Without education, we cannot follow our dreams. I want all children to be able to fulfill their dreams,” Sheikh said.

“The prime minister smiled and responded that he will try to solve the problem of child labour,” said Zakir Hussein, who aspires to start his own dance school.

Renu, who was jumping with excitement, said: “We wanted to share many more things with the prime minister but paucity of time was the problem.”

Thomas Chandy, chief executive officer of the NGO, remarked that the prime minister focused entirely on children and even took their personal details down.

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