A decade after getting freed from the shackles of child labour, a tribal youth from Giridih went on to win the prestigious 2020 Diana Award in recognition of his efforts for bringing positive and sustainable changes in his village.
The story of 22-year-old Neeraj Murmu, hailing from a nondescript village in Jharkhand, is no less than an inspiration for the several thousand children falling prey to child labour not only in Jharkhand but across the country.
Murmu was rescued from a mica mine in 2010 by nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). His parents could not afford to send him to school and he had no choice but to work in hazardous conditions to meet ends for his family.
“Kailash Satyarthi sir convinced my parents to let me study for a better future. Now I can afford to imagine a bright future,” he said. “I teach children in my village and counsel parents against child labour. I tell them that education can do wonders with their child’s future,” he added.
After his rescue, Murmu attended school and pledged to end child labour in his village. He went on to establish a local school to ensure that all children were able to access the right to education. Neeraj has enabled 200 underprivileged children in his village to get education and has rescued 20 child labourers from mica mines and enrolled them in his school.
By sharing his own experience of child labour in his classes, Neeraj encouraged children to think about their aspirations and motivated them to continue to pursue their education in Jharkhand where the school dropout rate is high.
Under his leadership, many socio-economic issues related to his village have been addressed. These issues include rescuing or withdrawing children involved in work and enrolling them in school, hand pump installation and repair, facilitating electricity in village households and providing cooking gas connections through linking with government schemes.
The 2020 Diana Award is instituted in the memory of the late Princess of Wales. The award is conferred by a charity and has the support of the late princess’ two sons, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.
Three years after his rescue, Murmu travelled to Tamil Nadu to persuade four under-aged boys who had migrated to that state in search of job opportunities to pursue education. He counselled them and successfully enrolled them in a local college. Neeraj also counsels parents of rescued children and seeks their support in making their villages safe space for all children.
Congratulating Murmu, P Nagasayee Malathy, who is Executive Director (Programmes), Bal Mitra Gram, a Kailash Satyarthi Children Foundation department of which Murmu was part, said, “We are proud that he has taken up great initiatives such as promoting education among former child labourers. He is a role model for many children in our Bal Mitra Grams where each child is a strong leader and is empowered to assert his rights and fight for their village development alongside adults”.