11 years old Radhika was emotionally and physically hurt,as she recounts,when her poverty-stricken parents send her to a family and forced her into bonded labor for two years!
Her father Amar and mother Rani, (name changed), came down to Jaipur to earn sufficient capital for releasing mortgaged land in their hometown, a village near Kolkata. Residing in one of the slum area of Ambedkar Nagar, they had extremely difficult days,struggled to earn living, working day and night… but still could not meet their requirement. Though his father was sensitive, affectionate and responsible but poor fellow had no choice left other than putting her daughter for working and took a meager amount from a well-placed family in lieu of to finance that small piece of land!
Like any other child in Ambedkar Nagar, Radhika had also been attending a non-formal school run by an NGO Saarthak Jaipur, where volunteers of different nationalities used to help them out round the year. Radhika used to take keen interest in her studies. One day unexpectedly she stopped coming to school, all her classmates and teachers were eagerly waiting to see her again in and around the school but she did not turned up? Idex volunteers (from Young Dreamers Network, USA) helped indoor-to-door search to look for Radhika but all efforts failed!
Days passed away…..weeks went on….. nobody was able to trace her.
But fortune turned for Radhika finds herself in safe haven by ‘Saarthak’, whilst one day suddenly she was spotted in nearby colony. Radhika narrated the touching story, how she had been doing domestic help for 12 hours a day… chopping vegetables, sweeping floors, washing utensils or clothes, was not getting enough food, rest and had sleepless nights!
Child labor is wide spread in India that many of us don’t realize anything wrong with this practice. Thousands of innocent children struggle as laborers in factories, industries, mines, also work as domestic help, shops or roadside restaurants!
Saarthak team along with volunteers struggled hard to save her childhood, wanted to provide her the basic education and healthy living!!!However her father was not keen to bring her back home or school in any case!It took long time to convince her parents by begging to restore childhood rights to Radhika. The parents were obstinate in their pursuit of keeping the child with the family they have taken the money. The police had also intervened in this case to protect her childhood.
Ultimately the efforts of Saarthak and Idex were proved fruitful. Radhika’s captors were paid back the money to bring back Radhika to her parents’ house…. to play with her little brother…. be in the school to read and write… to sing and dance with her friendspeer group…to be around in surroundings of her little house… to fly in the free world of her own!!!
Community had also joined their hands to look for Radhika and received her with warm welcome. Her parents and they realized it was all done in respect of getting mere financial support, which was a wrong step looking at her age and innocence of Radhika.
Radhika after coming home has joined her school back and excitedly aforesaid “If I can spare those 12 hours of household job, will study hard and become a teacher one day, to help children like me!”
Radhika’s teacher now observes that she is making good progress, has learned counting, reading,writing and so on… Soon within a year’s time Saarthak will make sure to send her to proper school!
Somehow the story has given a true message to all residents and parents of that community not to force their children in bonded labor! And now we can see a big smile on Radhika’s face, feeling free to fly…, and dreaming high!