'I'll Fight Till My Last Breath': This Rajasthan School Teacher Saves Tribal Kids From Trafficking

For making this possible, Durga Ram has developed his own network where 'informers' let him know all the important information and he tries to save children from the bonds of forced labour.

Rajasthan   |   14 Dec 2020 4:14 AM GMT
Writer : Ankita Singh | Editor : Prateek Gautam | Creatives : Abhishek M
Ill Fight Till My Last Breath: This Rajasthan School Teacher Saves Tribal Kids From Trafficking

In the tribal regions of south Rajasthan, child trafficking is still prevalent. The districts of Udaipur, Banswara, Dungarpur and Pratapgarh have witnessed many incidents of child trafficking. People are forced to 'mortgage' their children as they are living in dire poverty.

As the administration and NGOs are fighting to address this issue, a government school teacher from Udaipur, Durga Ram Muwal, is striving to rescue the children from trafficking and made this his only mission.

For making this possible, Durga Ram has developed his own network where 'informers' let him know all the important information and he tries to save children from the bonds of forced labour. In the past eight years, he has saved over 40 children from getting trafficked in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

A resident of Nagaur district, Durga Ram has been teaching in a tribal village of Udaipur for over a decade.

It was only after he joined teaching as a profession that he got to know the trafficking that takes place in tribal areas. Soon after, he was posted at a government school in Pargiyapada village which is situated about 60 km away from Udaipur, Durga Ram noticed a trend among the students of his school.

Some of the students who were continuing with their regular schooling would suddenly stop coming to school. This caught his attention and he learnt that these children had been taken away to work as child labourers. He also got to know that many middlemen were engaged in the trade of child trafficking.

In some incidents, children were forced into bonded labour after compliance with their parents and Durga Ram was distressed to know about this illegal activity.

Durga Ram recalls that the area where this takes place is situated near the Gujarat border. He was told that 'dalals' (middlemen) take away the school students for forced labour and send them to different states like Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

The kids are forced to work at least 18 hours a day for a meagre amount of ₹50 and are exploited in various ways. When he saw the condition of a girl who returned after working for several months, he was shocked.

"When I came to know that she had even been physically abused, I decided that I must do something for these children," said Durga Ram as reported by The New Indian Express.

Once Durga Ram decided that he would work towards fighting this evil in the region, he started with an awareness campaign. Durga Ram interacted with the tribals and explained to them the dangers of child labour. He also advised them not to agree to all demands of the middlemen.

Apart from talking to the parents, Durga Ram also discussed the same concerns with his students. He asked children not to fall into the middlemen's trap and instead focus on their studies.

Durga Ram was unfazed by the challenges which would be followed after starting with this noble initiative. In case of any emergency, he was ready to receive their calls any time. With his genuine efforts, he not only gained the support and trust of his students but also of tribal families in a region where a whole network of middlemen known as 'Meit' is active.

Durga Ram shared that the police in that district often face a shortage of staff and as a result, they overlook complaints. By collaborating with the local NGOs and after seeking help from the collector, a child helpline was created in the region.

By this collaborative approach and maintaining public pressure on the middlemen, they were able to save children from the clutches of bonded labour.

Two years ago, he received a call from some children who told him that they were confined at a chemical factory in Andhra Pradesh. The children pleaded for help from Durga Ram and also gave him the name of their 'dalal', As Durga Ram had already established his network of informers, he soon got the correct details and reached out to them on call.

"I spoke to the Dalal and pretended to be a police officer. I told him that the parents had lodged an FIR and that if the kids are not returned within a week, he would be in serious legal trouble," shared Durga Ram as reported by The New Indian Express.

With Durga Ram's threats on call, the middlemen ensured that the children returned to the village within a few days.

In a recent incident, Durga Ram rescued two teenage girls from a middleman in Gujarat. He asked the parents of the teenagers to lodge an FIR in the local police station.

The fear of the police and the public pressure forced the middleman to return the two sisters. The father of the girls thanked Durga Ram for rescuing his daughters. By taking help from police, the middlemen returned the two teenagers along with the other two girls.

Since Durga Ram came forward to help so many tribal children and prevented them from this menace, the local tribals respect and trust him. He has earned the status of a courageous activist whose mission is to fight trafficking and a committed teacher who could be accessed easily for any trouble that takes place. Recently, the Udaipur District Collector and the District Education Officer sought Durga Ram's suggestions to combat child labour and trafficking.

Durga Ram wants to keep working on the menace of child trafficking and plans to keep protecting children from falling in the trap till his last breath. He wants to develop a network through which he could keep working for the cause on a day to day basis. With the efforts of people like Durga Ram, many children are able to live their life with dignity and foresee a brighter future for them ahead.

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Ankita Singh

Ankita Singh

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A literature lover who likes delving deeper into a wide range of societal issues and expresses her opinions about the same. Keeps looking for best-read recommendations while enjoying her coffee and tea.

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