No more than fifty houses are fasten to this bumpy rural road that crosses the mountains of the district of Koderma, North of India. Here, no one has ever seen the Google car taking pictures. All the same, the Government of India regularly sends its officers to gather demographic data. Last year, the figures were updated: Rajabar village. 70 people. Literacy rate, 63 per cent. Unemployment, 64 per cent.
Koderma district, where Rajabar is located, is rich in minerals. Located in the Southern part of the Great Mica-Belt, the area, once upon a time was famous worldwide for its mica production. This mineral used in automotive paint and cosmetics was highly exploited but gradual excavation of low quality mica ore and high cost of production resulted in closure of mica related industry.
In the last years, eight mica industries were closed and unemployment scaled up in the village of Rajabar. Some of the already impoverished and highly illiterate Rajabar population couldn’t overcome this challenge.
Suraj was born here in a mud-wall house under a roof thatched with handmade mud tiles. Like many others in the village, Suraj’s family had no permanent source of income. His father hardly managed to earn an average of 65 euros per month, clearly not enough to sustain the six-membered household. Precarious works in agriculture here and there couldn’t cover the family needs so Suraj and his siblings helped his father to collect mica scrap to feed the family. Despite these efforts, the entire income went to buying food and medical treatment.
Living in such an environment, Suraj was not focused at all. He was enrolled in school, but he was truant, very much keen to hanging around than attending classes.
This situation scaled up and Suraj started stealing money from home. Although his parents warned him about his behaviour, Suraj was out of control and his father took an extreme decision: Suraj was sent to the city of Gujarat, to work in a factory to earn money to help the family. In this way, and in a few days, Suraj was sent 2,000 kilometers away from home and forced to work. He was 10 years old.
A friend of Suraj’s father arranged basic accommodation and food in a factory for Suraj along with other child labourers and the child began to work in the canteen 14 hours a day seven days a week.
It didn’t take very much time for Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its partners in the area to be aware of Suraj’s situation. When one of our community workers was conducting a regular survey to find out vulnerable children in Suraj’s village, she immediately noted that Suraj had dropped school, and when she initiated an investigation, she was informed that the child was working outside the village. Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its partners took actions straight away.
In India, Terre des Hommes Netherlands fights against the exploitation of over 20,000 children who work under dangerous conditions. Terre des Hommes Netherlands is straightening and supporting villages where children do not work, but do go to school and their parents are aware of the risks posed by child labour.
Following these principles and after having a meeting to ask Suraj’s parents to bring back Suraj, the family received support and training to grow vegetables to supplement the family income. Suraj was brought back to the village and enrolled in school again.
Now, Suraj is 12 years old and remembers his comeback: "Without support, I would have struggled throughout my life in the factory. I got a chance again to continue my education.” Through assistance and support, Suraj got motivated to continue his studies and started participating in after class activities like running and painting. In his own words, he is “very happy now because my friends and teachers have accepted me, and I can take part equally with other children in school. I will continue my education."
In India, thousands of children like Suraj suffer physically and mentally due to child labour and often don’t go to school. This makes it even harder to escape from poverty. Terre des Hommes Netherlands protects children like Suraj by helping them go to school or engaging them in vocational training. We also help families and communities to increase their earnings.
Your help makes a difference. Help children like Suraj. Stop child labour in India. Donate now!