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3-min read

Meet Anju Verma, 16-Year-Old from Haryana Who is Making India Child Labour-Free One Book at a Time

Through 'Buland Udaan', the organisation that Anju Verma founded in 2017, she has solved 965 child atrocity cases, helped in the enrolment of 696 students in schools, stalled 15 child marriages and prevented 10 sexual harassment cases.

Geetanjali Jha | News18.com

Updated:June 12, 2019, 5:53 PM IST
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Meet Anju Verma, 16-Year-Old from Haryana Who is Making India Child Labour-Free One Book at a Time
Founder of Buland Uddan and Child-labour Activist, Anju Verma.
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The 2011 Census by the International Labour Organisation revealed that out of 10.1 million child population in India between 5-14 years are dragged into child labour. Despite efforts by the government, the statistic is still quite high.

About six years ago, a 16-year-old girl from Haryana took a big plunge to help solve the child labour crisis in the country.

Through 'Buland Udaan', the organisation that Anju Verma founded in 2017, she has solved 965 child atrocity cases, dragged 696 students out of child labour and enrolled them in schools, stalled 15 child marriages and prevented 10 sexual harassment cases. The 16-year-old is using education as a tool to improve the social mobility of underprivileged children.

However, her dream to achieve “Child-Labour Free India” hasn't been without hurdles.

Hailing from a small village called Daulatpur, in Fatehabad district of Haryana, Anju remembers how the kids in her village were asked to accompany the parents to work - in agricultural fields, brick factories, dhabas. The labourer who, for instance, picked 20kg cotton, now plucked 50 kg with the assistance of their kids and eventually earned in multiples. In return, they handed over some 10-20 rupees as appreciatory incentives to their kids.

Anju knew that asking the parents to send their children to school wouldn't be helpful. She came up with an idea. She would walk up to the parents and tell them, “I can’t file a case against you as no one will listen to me but the government team roams in civil uniforms and if they sniff the crime, then just pay them 50,000 and at the most get 6 months imprisonment. That’s all. Nothing more!" She would walk off soon after. "The next day, I come to know the child has been sent to school,” Anju said.

Besides ensuring children's enrolment in schools, Buland Udaan also focuses on the education level of these children. The organisation calls up the teachers periodically to get information on the children. "So far almost every child we enrolled has obtained over 70 per cent”, the 16-year-old social activist said.

 

Anju also joined hands with the village sarpanch to save and rescue her friends who were not allowed to study and compelled to domestic work. "Sarpanchji and I made a plan to ensure that while other parents receive appreciation for their kids’ good performance, these girls' parents are embarrassed for killing their study time by making them do household choruses,” she said.

Anju claimed that the very next day those girls completed their homework.

Her team also went from door-to-door to speak to factory and farm owners. “They realised than more than benefiting economically by employing children, they might incur losses in the form of criminalisation and insult,” she said.

She didn't stop there. "I got the names and the pledge of all the owners, agreeing to eradicate child labour, and painted them on the main lane’s wall. It still serves as a statutory indication for them now,” she said. Anju said that her own village and the ones nearby are absolutely child-labour free now.

“If a child is given a cigarette and apple, he will choose a cigarette first as he seeks fun and satisfaction in it. Hence, we attempt to eliminate the ‘option’ per say in this child labour scam. In the absence of employers letting in kids at work, all of them have started going to school,” she said.

Anju said that the problem of child labour persisted because even though the parents knew it is ‘wrong’, they didn’t know that it’s a crime and amounts to imprisonment and fine.

But for a young woman who is battling against plenty of evils, growing up in Haryana, a state with a highly skewed sex ratio, wasn't easy. When Anju was born, her grandmother went on a 5-day fast out of sadness.

“In a region where girls were not allowed to wear anything except salwar suits, maintains no eye contact with even your own father or allowed to place no opinions at all, I decided to step out to battle against the child atrocities in my village,” she said.

But things have changed in the last few years. "We are getting so much support - from the family, locality, across the region. In our village, girls roam in the streets on their cycles. The elder siblings force and appease the younger ones to join school rather than doing waged errands,” she said.

 

“Education is the only key to help the children soar towards their dreams," Anju said. She has one message for young India. "Greater the dream, greater the difficulties, greater the achievement," she said.

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