Dreams in his eyes and a firm resolve in his mind, 21-year old Neeraj Murmu has come a long way.
A resident of Giridih in Jharkhand, Murmu, who was forced into child labour in the formative years of his life like scores of other underprivileged children, has bagged the prestigious ‘Diana Award’ instituted in memory of the late Princess of Wales for 2020 in a virtual ceremony. The only charity set up in memory of Princess Diana, the award has the support of the late princess’ two sons, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.
Murmu was selected in recognition of his efforts at creating and and sustaining positive change, virrtues Lady Diana strongly believed in.
Now a role model for others, Murmu was withdrawn from the mica mines operating in the state in 2011, following which his village became a child friendly village or a Bal Mitra Gram (BMG), a flagship programme of the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF).
Bal Mitra Gram project’s Executive Director P Nagasayee Malathy is all smiles. “We are proud that he has taken up great initiatives such as promoting education among former child labourers. He is a role model for many children in our BMGs where each child is a strong leader and are empowered to assert their rights and fight for their village development alongside adults,” Malathy says.
BMG incidentally is a grassroots initiative that promotes child-centric village development
aimed at empowering children and building safety nets around them by providing access to quality education to ensure that they are not employed, married or exploited. Parents are sensitized on the need to stand up for children’s rights to help them realize their dreams.
Murmu’s story is a real eye-opener for many. After his rescue from the mica mine where he was enaged as a child labour, Murmu attended school and pledged to end child labour in
his village. He went on to establish a local school to ensure that all children were able to access the right to education. Through his untiring efforts, he has enabled 200 underprivileged children in his village to get education and has rescued 20 child
labourers from mica mining and enrolled them in his school.
By sharing his own experience of child labour in his classes, Murmu, who is also a member of the local Youth Group, encourages the children to think about their aspirations and motivates them to continue to pursue their education in a state where the school dropout rate is high. Under his leadership, many socio-economic issues related to his village have
been addressed which include rescuing or withdrawing children involved in work and enrolling them in school, installing and repairing hand pumps, facilitating electricity in village households and providing cooking gas connections through linking with government schemes.
Three years after his withdrawal, Murmu travelled to Tamil Nadu to persuade four under-aged boys who had migrated to that state in search of job opportunities to pursue education. He counselled them and successfully enrolled them in a local college.
A change-maker at heart, Murmu also counsels parents of rescued children and
seeks their support in making their villages safe space for all children. He has also led several rallies and campaigns aimed at highlighting the importance of education to a which translated to a spurt in enrollments in local government schools.