Baidnath Kumar was just seven years old when he was sent to his relative's house in Ranchi as his parents' financial condition was not good. They couldn't even feed him a two-time meal. Without his parents having any idea, he was admitted to a government school and later made to work at Administrative Training Institute as a mess boy.
At the time when Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act) was introduced in India, Kumar was just 18 years old. All the administrative officers in the state were made aware of the Act and how it could protect children against forced labour. Being a mess boy, he would often listen to speakers discuss the issue in the lecture halls and used to note down the highlights.
Today, the 37-year-old is proud to have rescued more than 5,000 trafficked women and children in about a decade. "I used to discuss it with some IAS officers lodged in the Hostel. Besides, I talked to 14 minor employees and informed them about the Act. We decided to go on strike the next day. ATI officials asked us about the reason for the strike. I told them that the mess in-charge was torturing them, which is a violation of the JJ Act," Kumar said as reported by The New Indian Express.
It was then decided that those working there for a long time and who have attained the age of 18 would be made permanent employees. But nothing happened on ground, which prompted Kumar to announce he would self-immolate in protest. He was later arrested.
When A Job Proved To Be A Turning Point
"But it didn't go in vain, the protest served its purpose. All eligible ATI workers were made permanent, except for me, as they feared that I might create problems in future," Kumar said. He had no choice but to search for another job. In 2003, he joined a photocopy shop on the civil court campus, which eventually changed his life forever.
Advocates used to visit the campus and Kumar managed to strike up conversations with them regularly. He often told them how he desired to do something in the field of child labour. They advised him to form his own NGO. "One day, someone sent a copy of NGO by-laws for a photocopy. I took one for myself," he recalls.
So, after one year, he formed an NGO called Diya Seva Sansthan, which intended to help women and children get access to education. "I did a survey on children in Ranchi who were not going to schools and found 7,777 of them. With the collected data, I went to meet the then Education Project Council Director and expressed my wish to open a school to provide bridge courses to such kids," said Kumar.
Such an institute was to be entirely residential to enable children to get enrolled in government schools in future. "The director was impressed and I bagged my first project for educating 150 children," said Kumar.
The concept was later expanded to adjoining areas of Ranchi including Khunti and Simdega. While he used to the villages, he found something strange. Most of the village inhabitants were from the older age group. On inquiry, he was told the youth work in Delhi as domestic workers.
"I was further informed that the girls are being trafficked by some agents in an organised way," recalls Kumar. He sent e-mails to the CID (ADG) whenever he came across such cases.
Rescued More Than 5000 Children and Women
"I told CID officials to provide justice for these innocent kids and women, " said Kumar. The CID officials instead told him to prove his case. Kumar, who was working for three months in the national capital with a placement agency to secure details of the functioning of these agencies, finally managed to gather sufficient information.
"The officials verified the information and around 120 girls were rescued in a single day. It was my first ever rescue operation," added Kumar.
Till date, Kumar has rescued more than 5,000 trafficked kids and women. Amongst them, he adopted a seven-year-old girl from Delhi after he failed to get her parents traced. She now studies in 10th standard at a residential school and all her expenses are met by Kunar. He has also been a part of a lecture held in the US on the International Child Labour Day in 2018. He has bagged several awards from both governments as well as reputed private organisations. The police also laud his efforts.