Let There Be Light

Giridih does it again, gives second Diana Award winner from India

Meet Neeraj Kumar, child labourer turned teacher, who won this year's coveted Diana Award. Champa Kumari, also from Giridh had won the prestigious award in 2019

Giridih/Ranchi: For the second year in a row Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation has won the coveted The Diana Award. And both the winners, who won the laurel for India, hail from Giridih, Jharkhand.

Established in the memory of the late Princess, The Diana Award is supposed to be the most prestigious recognition for a young person aged 9-25 years for their social or humanitarian work. 22-year-old Neeraj Murmu, a tribal youth and resident of Tisri, in Giridih district, has won the award for his significant contribution to society for the year 2020.

Till 2011, Murmu, son of a small time farmer, used to rag-pick mica with his family members. Last year’s winner, 13-year-old Champa Kumari, a resident of the adjacent block Gawah in Giridih district, who also used to rag-pick mica waste, had won the award for her resilience and working towards the betterment of society.

Both Gawah and Tisri blocks are among the most backward areas in India. Thousands of children continue to pick mica waste in Giridih and Koderma districts of Jharkhand. Internal media, particularly Reuters, had visited the areas and had reported about the living conditions there. Every year several children die when mica mines cave in. The Thomson Reuters Foundation had even run a campaign to create awareness aimed at the world’s major corporate houses who use mica as their product. They persistently strive to stop illegal mining where children are used and are dying because of it as well as losing their childhood to this cruel practice. But all in vain.

Kailash Satyarthi’s Children’s Foundation and Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in particular have worked extensively in these areas and have saved many lives apart from providing them education. It won’t be far fetched to say that it was his endeavours through BBA that played a pivotal role in Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel prize in 2014.

The diana award tribal child labour mica labourer neeraj Murmu Giridih Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation BBA
Neeraj Murmu I Picture arranged by KSCF

The Diana Award, established by a UK based charity organisation, aims to promote the causes that were close to the heart of the late princess, and recognises young change-makers across the globe in two categories—United Kingdom and International. For 2020, among the international category, India has sprung forth 23 young Change Makers.

Who is Neeraj Murmu

Murmu is among the 7 children of Kulmani Besra and Ramjit Murmu. Both his parents are involved in farming as well as picking waste mica to sell in order to supplement their meager income. Murmu, who did not start schooling till the age of 12, used to pick mica waste with his parents. It was Kailash Satyarthi’s Children’s Foundation which got young Murmu to join school. Later, Murmu cleared his matriculation (secondary school) examination and followed it up with intermediate (higher secondary) examination, securing 69 and 58 per cent marks respectively. This is quite a feat in itself for children coming from such underprivileged  backgrounds.

“Now I am in the first year of my graduation from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). My honors (major subject) is Political Science. Along with my study I run a school which has around 100 students from Standard I to V,” shared Murmu with eNewsroom.

Now married, Murmu’s wife Lalita Kumari, who is also pursuing graduation in History, helps Murmu as they teach together at the school.

On asking about other activities apart from studies and teaching, Murmu informed, “I have encouraged some child labourers to continue their studies and there are 20 such students in my school. I have also helped villagers in getting their pensions, apart from helping them get the requisite certificates and other official documents from the Block office on a regular basis.”

When asked about his aim in life, Murmu added, “I want to see everyone, right from a child to the aged, to become literate, to be educated. I want to make people aware about the importance of education. And I want to do social service like Kailash (Satyarthi) sir.”

Global event held through virtual platform

Incidentally Prince Harry sent a surprise video message during the virtual ceremony held in his mother’s name. It would have been Princess Diana’s 59th birthday on July 1, 2020, the day of the ceremony.

As per reports, Prince Harry said, “I am so incredibly proud to be part of these awards, as they honor the legacy of my mother and bring out the very best in people like you.” He poignantly added, “Like many of you she didn’t take the easy route or the popular one or the comfortable one. But she stood for something and she stood up for people who needed it.” The Prince also touched upon the present circumstances and said, “I see the greatest hope in people like you, and I’m confident about the world’s future and its ability to heal because it is in your hands.”

Shahnawaz Akhtar

is Founder of eNewsroom. He loves doing human interest, political and environment related stories.

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