Our Heroes

Kalu Kumar
With glittering eyes, candid smile, innocent face and honest words, Kalu seemed to be a live portray of what Socrates had woven in words. From a far flung remote village in Bihar, Kalu too had dreams full of joy and happiness like any other 5 years old boy anywhere in the world when he was kidnapped for forced labour.

Born in 1988, in Madhepura district of Bihar, Kalu kumar belonged to a very poor family. His father was an agricultural labourer, while, his 2 brothers and 4 sisters used to stay back at home. For living and in order to support his family this motherless child worked as a shepherd and used to take the villagers cattle to the fields.

On that fateful day in 1993, he was lured to have a sight to the city and was offered sweets by his uncles. At that time Kalu along with the his friends were playing nearby his hamlet. Lured by sweets and to have a chance to see city life, they, after sometime sensed the wrong but it was too late for them. Kalu found himself in a place where he had never been to. He was trafficked to the notorious carpet belt in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh. First he was taken to an employer who was suppose to train him in carpet weaving. Those were the times when the carpet industries had earned bad name for exercising all kinds of exploitation to their employees. 
For five years Kalu Kumar was held in bondage and was forced to work in complete inhuman conditions. The work environment was deplorable and intolerable. It became a routine that everyday Kalu was abused and beaten by his loom owner. The scars of the wounds inflicted by his master were visible on his stomach and palm even after several years of rescue. It was the extreme inhumanity of the employer that instead of providing him medical treatment, the employer filled his wounds with matchstick powder and burn it with another matchstick. This led to immediate stoppage of bleeding from the wounds. This cruel practice was later confirmed as a usual treatment for such kind of wounds by many other rescued labourers. The labourers in those establishments used to work from in the morning till late night.

It was in 1997 when his nightmarish life came to an end. He got respite from this miserable life only after he was identified and rescued by the SACCS/BBA activists. All other 18 children rescued along with Kalu belonged to the state of Bihar in India.

In 1998, Kalu was brought to Bal Ashram of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. His harmonious nature and quick learning skills made him famous and lovable to everyone in the ashram in no time. His curiosity, activeness and clear vision towards the elimination of child labour stunned the stalwarts of this field. His dedication to fight against the evil of child labour made him one of the torch bearer in this race. It can be easily felt when he had the privilege to meet Bill Clinton, the Ex-President of U.S.A to whom he said "I have been freed from bondage but several of my brothers and sisters are still languishing in it."

It is a perception that only the children from wealthy families get abducted, not the poor. But it is not true. In the case of Kalu, a very poor shepherd was abducted, trafficked and forced to work as a child labourer. Despite all adversities Kalu was an unprecedented example of bravery, straightforwardness, honesty, dedication, creativity, harmony, etc. and the list is endless if one tries to enlist his attributes.

We all know that children are unpredictable and one never knows what inconsistency they're going to catch you in next. This holds true in case of Kalu whenever he got a chance to interact with celebrities. Two of the many instances are worth mentioning here in this context. The member of Parliament from Nalanda, Mr. Kaushlendra Kumar said, "Making law is not the only responsibility of the government. We should also track its implementation." This came as an answer to a question raised by Kalu Kumar. Kalu asked, "Where a child can go and complain if he is not allowed admission in a school?" To this Mr. M.P. replied, "I will ask the same question to the HRD minister in the parliament."

Kalu got selected to attend the launch of Kerry Kennedy's (daughter of Robert F. Kennedy) book on Human Rights- "Speak Truth to Power" in 2000 where he met the then President of USA, Bill Clinton. While meeting, Mr. President affectionately told Kalu, "What can I do? I am not even going to be the President in a few months?" To this what Kalu replied left the bystanders stunned. He said to Mr. President, "You do not have to be the President of United States to do something for the children of the world." As a result of this conversation the budget of US Department of Labour and Policy Against Child Labour was increased many folds.

Kalu indeed was a very creative spirit. Many who saw his childhood, confirm this quality. He did not only used to write but also was very good at reciting. He wrote many songs and poems for the cause which he was fighting for. As a result many people not only appreciated his creativity but got inspired and joined the movement taking pledge to work towards elimination of child labour.

Kalu became a star campaigner in the field of child labour in a very short span of time. He gained so much popularity that many Multi-National Companies offered him job with handsome remuneration for just becoming their goodwill ambassador. But he refused these lucrative offers and told Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, that his life is dedicated only for the cause of child labour.

He took up the task of awaking people in the remotest parts of the country against the menace of child labour, on his own. His unprecedented zeal and energy enthralled many who saw him performing in various street shows while leading Mukti Carvan, a campaign on wheels against child labour.

During the last week of September 2011, the team of Mukti Carvan reached Koderma in Jharkhand with Kalu. He was working in one of the remotest villages running a campaign in mica mining to prevent child labour and trafficking. On 22nd September 2011, when everybody was fast asleep, Kalu was bitten by Krait snake at 4 o' clock in the morning. He was immediately taken to the nearby Tisri government hospital. The doctors further referred Kalu to Holy Family Hospital from where he was finally moved to "Dhanbad Medical College and Hospital" by 9 o' clock in the morning. Kalu was kept under strict medical observation for four days but all their efforts went-in-vein. Hence, sensing the seriousness of the issue they transferred Kalu's case to Durgapur Mission Hospital where Kalu struggled for his life for 26 days. But he could not be saved despite all efforts. At the early age of 23, on 18th October 2011, the little brave soldier took his last breath and closed his eyes forever giving a strong message across the world that the biggest social evil in the form of child labour must be won at any cost.

Kalu is the foremost example of a victim rising from and above his humble past and becoming a leader and change maker against exploitation, child labour and trafficking of child.

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Asmit

Asmit, a resident of Saharsa district, Bihar, belongs to a low income family in which 13 members live together as a joint family. Asmit was a child labourer who used to work in a small grocery shop with his father. Asmit left his school after class 4 and started working in another grocery shop for 12 hours a day for the meager wages of Rupees 500 a month. BBA activists took notice of the child, rescued him and brought him to Bal Ashram.

Bal Ashram staff members noticed the hidden talents in Asmit and boosted him to continue his education and participate in the extra-curricular activities. Asmit has again continued his studies and he is a bright student who has acquired leadership qualities and oodles of confidence.

Asmit is a very jubilant and lively child. He likes singing and participating in dramas and other such activities. He is a very disciplined child, likes computers and is always regular in his computer classes and other such workshops. He is quiet outspoken and actively participates in debates and speaking on social issues. On the occasion of Dashehra, he enacted the role of Hanuman in Ramleela. His performance was commendable and everyone appreciated him. On 14th November, 2010 NALSA and DLSA organized a program for children in which Asmit took part in a drama on religious harmony titled "EKTA" along with other Bal Ashram children. All the judges, advocates and other delegates from various organizations applauded their performance including chief justice of India, Hon. Altamas Kabir.
Asmit aspires to become a doctor and serve the poor and underprivileged people for the betterment of society.

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Amar Lal Banjara

Amar Lal Banjara was born in debt bondage in a family if 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.

Amarlal was withdrawn from bonded labour, after an intervention by the local activists of Bachpan Bachao Andolan,along with his family and was sent to Bal Ashram for future education.

A brilliant student and orator Amarlal says, "In Bal Ashram I have realized what freedom is. In the Ashram we get 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 free from exploitation."

Amarlal also represented the voice of child labourers in UNESCO's High Level Group meeting in December 2007 at Daskar, Senegal. Chosen as a child representative to speak alongside world leaders in this high profile meeting of education ministers across the globe. Amarlal highlighted the need of education to child labourers to the assembles world policy makers on education. Amarlal joined hands with 3 other children from Liberia, Senegal and Columbia each representing his own country and the needs of children's right to education. He reminded the delegates- "Keep your promises to world's children by allocating more budget for education for the poor countries and to abolish child labour."

Presently Amarlal is pursuing BA Llb (2nd year) from Chaudhari Charan Singh University, Meerut and he has a good knowledge of administrative skills also.He is a bright student and aspires to work on child rights later. His journey till now was not a cake walk, But, after coming to bal ashram, he has transformed into a much responsible and focussed individual.He is sincere and aims to be a lawyer. He is now working towards his future goals and we wish him all the best for his life and studies.

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Kinsu

Kinsu is an icon in his village as he has been topping his school exams. Kinsu, who used to work as child domestic labour as car cleaner is the brightest student in Bal Ashram.

Kinsu  was born on 4th July, 1995 at Purikatra, Laldegi Mohalla in district Mirzapur of Uttar Pradesh. His village  lacks basic facilities.

Kinsu started working at the tender age of 6. He had always wanted to go to school but the poor family could not afford it. Kinsu's father came in contact with Bachpan Bachao Andolan during the Education march organized by BBA in 2001. He realized his children will have a future only if they are well educated.

BBA was successful in withdrawing him from  child labour and he was brought to Bal Ashram in Virat Nagar, Rajasthan. The boy showed profound interest in education. After initial six months at Ashram, he was enrolled in nearby public school. Presently Kinsu is in 12th standard.

Kinsu traveled to the United States testifying in an important congressional hearing. He has spoken in a high level panel on education at European Union (EU). He participated along with several world leaders including Gordon Brown and the President of World Bank. He also participated in The Hague Global Child Labour Conference as a representative of more than 60 million children who do not have a childhood and toil in atrocious working conditions.

Kinshu is pursuing his b.tech (2nd year ) from Rajasthan Technical University and also help children in their studies. He is one of the bright student in the ashram. Now he is working hard towards his future goals. He fervently wants to become a mechanical engineer and a  social worker.

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Rakesh Sada 

In 2002, 8 year old Rakesh from Saharsa, Bihar was abducted by a local trafficker who lured him of giving him sweets. Rakesh hardly knew his intentions. He was made to sit in a bus and than a train. When the train stopped, he realised that he was in a different place and it was not his home. Rakesh was hopeless as he had no clue of what was going on. Rakesh was taken to Amritsar and was sold to a different person. He realised that he could never go back to his parents.

Rakesh was made to work in the fields by his employer. A life full of misery and torture began for him. He was physically and mentally tortured by his employer as he used to work for 14 to 16 hours a day with no break. The daily routine was to wake up at 5 am and work from 8 am to 10 pm. He used to cut grass, feed the animals, clean their stall, water the field, carry bricks on his head for his master's house which was being constructed. Whenever he made any mistakes, he was abused and beaten up bu his employer. He barely got enough food to eat and enough clothes to wear.

One day his employer blamed him of stealing money and handed him to the police. The police instead of listening to Rakesh and rescuing him from his employer further threatened him with dire consequences if he did not work well with his employer.

The worst part was that he was given morning tea with opium( opium reduces pain and the person gets a feeling of extra energy). This would make him work the entire day without any feeling of tiredness. In the night he used to be given 2 pegs of alcohol so that he could work in the cold during winters without proper clothing. He was also not given enough clothes to cover himself from the cold during winters. Initially he did not like to take alcohol but when he realised that it kept him warm in the winters, he also started taking it regularly.

Rakesh was relieved to come out of the horrifying situation when he was rescued by the activist of BBA on 16th June 2006. The irony was that when Rakesh was rescued, he could not even speak to his father as he forgot his mother tongue and could only speak in Punjabi.

Rakesh underwent non- formal education in Bal Ashram. He was also selected as a jury member for the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child in Sweden.