How Kailash Satyarthi saved Fardeen, Ranveer and others
Former child labourers recount how Bachpan Bachao Andolan helped him become a better person.
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Fardeen is diminutive. He is 14 years old. He stares a lot at his hands which are scarred from the work he did as a child labourer in a garment factory.
Hailing from a village in Uttar Pradesh, Fardeen was brought at the age of 11 to Delhi by a hotel-owner. The boy was promised a good salary and a good life in the city.
However, the reality was different. Fardeen was sold for Rs 6,000 to sew at an illegal denim factory located in a residential area.
"I had several scrapes and injuries at my work in the factory. You can see some of the scars yourself. Some are from scissor cuts, some from beatings - we were beaten by whatever the owner could lay his hand on." Fardeen was tearful. "I would wake up at 8am, bathe and have breakfast and go to work by 9am to 9.30am. We'd have lunch around 1pm. I was made to work from 9am to 11pm. If the work was done incorrectly, I would get beaten up."
One day, he was rescued, together with five over children, by the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement).
Fardeen feels safe and happy at the BBA's boys' home Mukti Ashram: “It feels like home. Everyone loves us here.”
He told me that he can finally be a child and do whatever he wants, play various games like football or cricket, and study in the classroom.
"We live like friends and brothers here, neither fights nor scoldings. We get food here and get to eat in peace, we bathe and sleep on time."
Fardeen wants to study and become a doctor so that he could treat poor people for free. He misses his sister.
"I have an older sister who is married. My parents have passed away. My sister and I are very close and she is very protective towards me. She is the only person I can call my own now. I have paternal uncles, but they are busy with their own lives and don't really care or love me. I will stay here, study and take care of my sister when I start earning," he says.
Fardeen is positive. "Everyone who comes here (Mukti Ashram) leaves as a good person, even if they were naughty, mischievous when they first came here. I believe I have become a better person after coming here.
"One becomes a good person in the company of good persons.”
Ranveer is a quiet, handsome man. Forty-five years old, and from the adjoining state of Haryana, he currently teaches at Mukti Ashram.
“As a former child labourer," he tells me, "I can understand what these kids have gone through.
"I understand their feelings, their fears.”
Ranveer, together with his family, worked as a child labourer in Dadori village, Madhya Pradesh. He was rescued by the BBA and placed in a home, where he got educated and gained an occupation as a carpenter.
For a while, Ranveer taught carpentry to apprentices, before coming to work at the ashram. He said in that calm voice of his, "Whoever I am now, it is only because of Kailashji,” referring to Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi who founded the BBA.
Ranveer now has his own family - a wife and two children, who live in Haryana. However, Ranveer himself prefers staying with the rescued children in the ashram.
A quiet man. A quiet hero.