With the help of facial recognition technology, entrepreneur and social activist Vineet Mehra has been successful in reuniting around 3,000 missing children in Delhi with their families.
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Child labour is a social evil that cannot be escaped anywhere in India still. Be it at roadside food joints, at mines, or in the tobacco and fireworks industries, children are hired to help with menial jobs.
According to Unicef, there are about 10.1 million children employed in labour in India, representing about 13 percent of the workforce. Or, in other words, one in every 10 workers in India is a child – a child who is guaranteed protection under the Indian Law, with a promise to education and mid-day meals till the age of 14 years.
The report published by Oxfam India quotes numbers from 2018. However, two years hence, the scenario has not changed at all. Today, we see children picking up scraps at railway and bus stations, or serving food or doing odd jobs at tea stalls and small eateries.
Vineet J Mehra, the Founder of DOT, a green mobility solution provider, could not sit back and passively take in these alarming statistics. He is now helping victims of child labour and human trafficking.
Apart from scaling his startup, Vineet has also co-founded the Global Sustainability Network (GSN) in 2015 along with Romy Hawatt, CEO and Founder of Raina Group.
Vineet tells SocialStory, “Here at GSN, we address the major issues facing humanity – poverty, human rights, sustainability, financial inclusion, and youth unemployment. My work has also led me to invitations to the Vatican and the United Nations.”
Vineet holds a dual degree in management and finance, and has earlier worked with a UK-based investment bank that deals with the physical trading of steel and allied commodities.
Saving young lives
Taking advantage of facial recognition technology, Vineet is credited with the successful mission of saving and reuniting 3,000 missing children with their families. The technology was earlier used by airline security to identify passengers and help reduce queues at the airports.
Vineet realised that the same technology could be used in real time to identify missing, abducted, and enslaved children on the crowded streets of Delhi, and reunite them with their families.
Being a GSN member, Vineet spoke to another GSN supporter and Nobel Peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, and took his idea further to track abused children in the capital city. After gathering the support of the Delhi police and the government, the trial began in 2017 with six cameras placed across the city.
Within four days, Kailash Satyarthi’s team sent out a message, which Vineet assumed would only rescue and reunite 10 or 20 children with their families. But much to his surprise, between April 6 and 10, no less than 2,930 children were found, and the Delhi police reported that they are helping them reunite with their families.
“Just four days later, Kailash Satyarthi’s team sent out a message. A hard drive with the photographs of the missing children and six facial recognition cameras were put in action to scan and match the facial profile under the guidance of the authorities… The power of the GSN made this happen along with the technology of facial recognition,” Vineet adds.
Addressing child labour menace
The social entrepreneurs’ organisation GSN works towards the inclusion of the disabled community to develop emission standards, deliver education and knowledge, and monitor ecosystem abuses as well. In September 2015, the international community had met to endorse the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve better and more sustainable future for all’.
Following the same, the Vineet-led organisation started working towards the cause. He adds, “We don’t want to wait till 2030 for the 193 signatory countries that have committed to implementing SDG to act upon it. Especially with mica mining, which has the sweat and blood of very young minors who are exploited to cater to the paint industry, whos products are used extensively by automobile companies. Implementation should not wait when countries find excuses to not having achieved the goals. Instead, action should start through collaboration and addressed through various platforms involving large companies, thereby ensuring that the movement culminates in the achievement of the stated objectives by 2030.”
For the organisation, the solution for this cause is still work-in-progress, and Vineet’s focus is on offering sustainable and long-term decent employment that will tackle the abuse of child and bonded labour, as well as address environmental and climate issues.
At present, GSN offers solutions especially for creating jobs on a sustainable basis. For Vineet, it is a dream to create two million jobs through a collaborative effort and socially impactable initiatives.
He adds, “The main philosophy on which my company works is not to create value only through reducing supply chain costs, but rather through improving profitability through long-term sustainable practices, so that there will be a visible impact in our financials, as also in the environment in which we operate. Thus, we were able to translate our vision to generate mass employment opportunities.”
Urging youth to be more vocal
Apart from tackling child labour and human trafficking, Vineet also focusses on addressing the importance of leading a sustainable lifestyle, for which, he had organised ‘Comics for Change’. The event, which was held in Mumbai on the Human Rights Day on December 10, 2019, encourages Indian youth to embrace the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and instill a sense of shared responsibility for a better and sustainable future.
Vineet specifically chose comedy as the language for the event as he believes that it has the power to entertain, educate, open dialogue, and unite. He adds that the idea was to launch and expand Comics for Change globally and make it an inclusive event that will mobilise the thought towards SDG and sustainability at the college level across the globe, through comedy.
“The language of ‘humour’ is universal, and has been identified as a powerful tool that helps percolate the most complex issue facing our society into a powerful long-lasting message impression,” Vineet adds.
Speaking on the plans for the future, Vineeth believes in continuing his ongoing activities and learning more from his peers. Besides, he tends to learn from the activities carried out by Kailash Satyarthi to end the ongoing child labour issue.
He says, “I strongly believe that the world is way off on its target of ending modern-day slavery, child labour, climate emergency, refugee crisis, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and inequality that continues to stare in the face of humanity. My introspection has led me to rethink and reshape my life’s ambition concretely to work towards promoting inclusiveness, sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all, with a special focus on ending modern-day slavery and human trafficking.”
(Editor- Suman Singh)