New life, thanks to Kailash

New life, thanks to Kailash

By: || Updated: 11 Oct 2014 04:22 AM
When he was six, Amar Lal Banjara spent his entire day breaking stones in a dark, oppressive quarry with his little limbs. Now almost 20, he is a second-year law student.

 

 

He says he owes his liberty to Kailash Satyarthi, whose organisation raided the Jaipur quarry that was threatening to suck his childhood out of him and freed him in 2001, aged seven.

 

Amar spent the next 11 years at Bal Ashram, run by Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan in Virat Nagar, about 100km from Jaipur, before leaving to study at Janhit Law College, Greater Noida. The Andolan is still supporting his studies.

 

“It was in Bal Ashram that I realised what freedom and childhood meant,” said Amar, a good orator who has addressed a Unesco meeting in December 2007 in Senegal.

 

“Here I was able to laugh and play without fear, and dream of a future free of exploitation.”

 

Every day at the ashram starts with prayers at 6am for its 70 boys, aged 6 to 17, all rescued from bonded labour. From then till the 9.30pm lights-out, their day is filled with gardening (mandatory), vocational training, computer classes, games, and singing and dancing lessons. In between, there’s the trip to a government school nearby.

 

The ashram has gardens and landscapes maintained by the children and staff. It provides training in tailoring, electrical work, welding, carpentry, gardening, cooking, driving and computers. It has 25 teachers, including six professional vocational trainers.

 

“Most of the boys are from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh and worked in carpet-weaving units, mica mines, brick kilns, small hotels, embroidery factories or stone quarries,” ashram manager Nitendra Singh said.

 

Some of the rescued older boys stay on for just five to six months. The young ones stay longer and the better students, like Amar, the longest.

 

Elated with the Nobel for their rescuer, the boys just want a party now. Satyarthi’s wife Sumedha, the ashram director, spends about 20 days a month there. The boys are waiting for Satyarthi to pay a visit. (Picture shows Satyarthi with the boys of Bal Ashram during an earlier visit).

 

--The Telegraph, Calcutta

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