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VOICES OF CHILDREN
 
Young Heroes
 

Kinshu Kumar

10 years old former child domestic labour Kinshu Kumar now 12 years is a resident of Purikatra, Laldegi Mohalla, zilla-Mirzapur, state-Uttarpradesh.His village lacks basic facilities. Purikatra is like a dirty slum surrounded by an open drain with sewage and garbage littered all around .The atmosphere is not conducive and is especially unhealthy for children like Kinshu.

 

Kinshu belongs to a poor family. His father has no cultivable land of his own, driving a jeep which he owns is the only means by which he earns his livelihood.Kinshu’s father was a wastrel, who used to while away his time along with his friends taking them on rides in his jeep. Kinshu’s mother is a housewife. He has two younger brothers and sisters.

 

Kinshu was enrolled in a government school near his house and was studying in standard 4th.  However one year back the school was turned into a hospital. At the same time Kinshu’s father’s jeep also developed some mechanical problems. He was forced to take a loan to get his Jeep repaired. The income of the family become so meager that Kinshu was not allowed to go to another school.

 

He started staying at home helping his mother his mother in cooking, cleaning utensils, looking after his younger siblings. In such a situation even if Kinshu wanted to study such an option was not available to him. In this way Kinshu was losing his childhood.

 

One day kinshu’s father met with a BBA activist. The meeting proved to be an eye-opener for him. Kinshu’s father realized his responsibility, which was to work and send his children to school. Without further wasting time he sent Kinshu to the Delhi office to ensure Kinshu will get an education.

 

Kinshu on reaching the Delhi office was sent to Bal Ashram a transit rehabilitation center for rescued child labourers. Kinshu came to the ashram where he was found to be sufficiently intelligent and was admitted to the government school in the village of Sauthana, about a kilometer away from the ashram. This was done in consultation with his parents.

 

In Bal Ashram Kinshu is free, he is not exploited and is free to enjoy his childhood. Kinshu has been regularly topping in his class. He has natural leadership qualities and is a good actor. Kinshu is enjoying himself and is very happy. He has become aware of his rights and knows that his responsibility is to study. In this way Kinshu was able to escape his misery and enjoy his childhood and freedom.

 

Jitender Sada

Jitender Sada 16 years old was rescued by BBA activists on 29th March 2006 after having worked for nearly 5 years under torturous conditions.

 

16 years old child labourer Jitender Sada is a resident of Sihar village, District Supol, Bihar. Jitender’s father had no cultivable land of his own; he used to work as daily wage labourer in other people’s land.

 

More than five to six years back, Ramchandra Sada (a middleman) took Jitender and 4-5 more children to Amritsar by luring Jitender’s parents that a better future awaited him and he would be earning good money. Jitender and the other children were sold to one of Ramchandra Sada’s associate, Mr. Dilbagh Singh who further sold him to a local landlord Mr. Rana Singh, where his name was changed to Sagar to hide his identity.

 

A life full of torture and misery began for Jitender who was tortured physically and mentally and made to work 14 to 16 hours a day with no break. The daily routine was to wake up at 5am and work till 11 pm.  There was another boy working with him. In the morning, Jitender had to cut fodder in a manually operative machine and feed around 25 cattle. He had to milk the cattle, collect the cow and buffalo dung as well as bathe the cattle. He also had to monitor the watering of 6-7 acres of farmland as well as put manure in the vast fields.


 
Jitender was not provided with any bedding or any other proper place to sleep. He was not given adequate food to eat, nor was he allowed to meet or call anyone. He suffered living in these inhuman conditions for 4 years when he was made to work like a slave. His employee used to beat him up on the smallest pretexts. His employers tortured him in the most humiliating and hurtful way, so as to break his spirit completely.

 

Another horrifying aspect which came out was that in the morning he used to be given tea with opium (to dull the pain, and make him further dependent on the employer, it is also that the person taking opium gets a kick and a feeling of having extra energy) and in the night he used to be forcefully given 2 pegs of alcohol, so that they could work without feeling cold in the harsh winters of Punjab.

 

Five months before he was rescued, Jitender was called back by Dilbagh Singh to work for him.

 

Jitender’s parents, in the quest for looking for their son, got in touch with the local BBA activists who called up BBA’s Delhi office. Jitender was then rescued from this hell by the valiant efforts of the BBA activists under the leadership of Mr.Kailash Sathyarthi. The irony of the situation was that when Jitender was rescued he could not even speak to his father who was present at that time as he had forgotten his own language and could only speak in Punjabi. After the rescue he went back to his village and stayed for a few days with his mother and father. He was brought to Bal Ashram where he underwent rehabilitation.

 

He does not want children to be trafficked for work and instead wants them to go to school. It is these thoughts that he wanted to express and thus has taken part in the march against trafficking.

 

Amar Lal Banjara

Amar Lal Banjara 12 years old is one among 6 brothers and sisters. He and his family were debt labourers bonded to a stone quarry contractor in Rajasthan, India. Amar Lal at the tender age of 6 was assigned the responsibility of looking after his younger siblings and later went on to assist his father in breaking stones, this task had to be done manually and was a backbreaking activity. Amarlal had to work with instruments that would have weighed as much as he did. Such extreme circumstances made education next to impossible for this young boy.

 

Initially Amar Lal's father would not consider sending his children to school due to his financial situation but after a lot of convincing by the BBA activists he finally relented, and so today Amar Lal and his brother Puran are attending formal schools.

 

The ashram has its own panchayat for governance. Right at the beginning of each new session the boys elect their own sarpanch. Amarlal got elected as the sarpanch of Bal Ashram in the recently held elections in January 2006.Apart from this he is also part of the cultural team that performs folk theatre to generate awareness on social issues including child labour. He has transformed into an exuberant, confident and articulate boy with a passion to tackle the issue of child labour.

 

Amar Lal says, “In Bal Ashram I have realized what freedom is. In the Ashram we have the freedom to be ourselves to be children again, to be able to laugh and play without fear. I can dream now of a future for myself which is not full of exploitation”.

 

Nazma Boyati, Bangladesh

Nazma Boyati, now 17 years old, started begging at the tender age of 6 with her disabled father, Mr. Momon Boyati. To augment the earnings, Nazma used to wash dishes in a tea stall in her village, Sonapur in Bangladesh. Nazma ranaway from the tea stall after 3 years and started living on the streets of Dhaka city. In order to survive, Nazma was engaged in rag-picking and also selling of scrap.

 


During this time Nazma came in contact with Aparajeyo-Bangladesh, who rescued her from her miseries and is still being supported by them.

 

Nazma is an excellent at drawing and her dream is to become an Artist.

 
Mohhamad Samsur, India
 

Mohhamad Samsur, 13, is from Kachhi Basti, Manoharpura, Jagatpura, Jaipur (Rajasthan). He has four brothers, who are 4, 9, 10 and 15 years old. Samsur’s father runs a tea stall and sells garbage collected by rag pickers. His father has completed 8th grade and can read. Samsur’s mother is illiterate. She is a domestic worker and helps her husband sort out the garbage to sell.

 

Samsur started working with his friends as a rag (garbage) picker when he was ten years old because his parents and all his neighbors and friends were rag pickers. He collected garbage from McDonalds, Pepsi factory, and Milk Processing Units in Malviyanagar, Jaipur, three hours a day (from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.), seven days a week for a year. He still has a scar on his foot from stepping on a piece of broken glass while collecting garbage. Samsur also attended school for four hours a day (from noon until 4 p.m.). During his work as a rag-picker, Samsur was addicted to gutka (tobacco) and sometimes used to smoke cigarettes.

 

He has completed only one year of schooling, later he dropped out of school so that he could continue rag-picking throughout the day.

 

One day Samsur’s father met an activist from Bachpan Bachao Andolan (the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude). The meeting was an eye-opener for his father, who realized his responsibility to work and to send Samsur to school. Without wasting anytime, he sent Samsur to the Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation center run by Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

 

Now, Samsur lives at the Bal Ashram in Viratnagar, Jaipur District (Rajasthan) with other children who have been withdrawn from work and are receiving educational and vocational training. Samsur is improving his reading and writing skills so that he can be reintegrated into formal school when he returns home.

 

Samsur is busy fighting illiteracy, child labor, dowry, corruption, child marriage, etc. He participates in the implementation of Bal Mitra Gram (Child Friendly Villages). He interacts with villagers and children in nearby villages to advocate for a child-friendly society, which aims to eliminate child labor and enroll all children in school through establishing children’s parliaments. Samsur also participates in demonstrations, rallies and marches to highlight prevalent local social problems, enroll children in school, and boycott fireworks and other products that are manufactured using child labor.

 

Samsur now has hope of a future that is not full of exploitation. He wants to go to university and become a good painter. He sees himself making beautiful paintings. He also wants to help other children like him and work to improve their lives. Education should be ensured so that all the children can go to school, Samsur says, and adults should be provided with employment. He knows that if children work then they do not have time to play, they are exploited by their employers, they do not receive adequate wages, and they do not have a chance to develop physically and socially to their full potential. "The best way to help child laborers is to make friends with them and persuade them to go to school. Schooling is the most important for children," he says.

 
Kailash Satyarthi... the seeker of truth
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