Let There Be Light

Vijay Goyal: The saviour of India’s future

Jaipur: Fourteen-year-old Marsa, 10-year-old Uday Kumar, 15-year-old Saddam, or Rahul, Mantu, Md. Ilyas are children from different walks of life, but they share a similar fate. They all have been trafficked to Jaipur, Rajasthan’s state capital and one of the most popular tourist destinations, as cheap and efficient bonded labours in various factories that churn out some of the most popular Rajasthani handicrafts. Put up in dingy rooms, where they toiled from dawn to dusk, without breaks, they had been leading a life of captivated birds, till their messiah came searching for them. A man fighting against child trafficking and saved thousands of children from Jaipur only.

Meet the 48-year-old Vijay Goyal, who has helped hundreds of bonded child labours trapped in factories across Rajasthan in getting back to their normal life. Goyal, has been working for a decade now, to both rescue and rehabilitate such children under The Bonded Labour system (Abolition) Act, 1976.

The child rights activist is also the nodal officer of the first and only one stop child crisis management centre, from a Jaipur police station. The centre is a brainchild of Goyal and was setup in 2014. This crisis centre works in collaboration with Rajasthan police and Unicef.

Because of the initiative of Goyal, a child help desk has also been started at Jaipur Railway station in July this year.

Speaking about his dedication, Additional Director General of Police (ADG) BL Soni, says, “He is a very dedicated person working towards this cause. He is sensitive and is doing a great job.” Recalling the first time that he had met Goyal, he adds, “We had collaborated for the first time in 2012. Together, we had rescued 300 children from Hashimpura, Jaipur. It was a tough job.”

However, Goyal, began rescuing bonded child labour in 2007. He has so far has been instrumental in saving 5000 children from Jaipur, Sikar, Alwar, Kota and Jhunjhunu. Bonded child labours are mostly employed in some of the traditional handicraftbusiness like bangle (lac) making, embroidery, gem polishing and even for domestic work. Tracing and rescuing bonded child labours is a difficult task and takes up a lot of his time.

And when Goyal, is not rescuing children, you can spot him in courts, as he has over 100 cases pending against him. The activist, who is very active when it comes to rescuing children and rehabilitating them, as he is a party to most of these cases pending in courts.

“I have lodged over 70 First Information Reports (FIR) and am witness to around 30 cases related to child rescue. The moment, I get a tip off related to children being employed somewhere or of trafficked kids, I immediately contact the concerned officials, without wasting any time,” he says.

Goyal, is also the state convener of Rajasthan Child Rights Protection Combine Campaign and the General Secretary of Resource Institute for Human Rights.

The worldly celebration means nothing to him. He is only concerned about saving lives. So when world was busy celebrating Valentines Day, he was busy sending of messages to journalists about 78 children that he has rescued. Same was the case on Republic Day, however, back then he was informing the media about 97 children being sent off to their native place Bihar.

“But, maximum 3500 children have been rescued from bonded labour from Jaipur,” he mentions. He has about five people in his team, who help him keep a vigil on areas that are known for employing bonded labours. A majority of the kids trafficked to Rajasthan are from Bihar and Jharkhand.

Goyal even travels with them, in a bid to rehabilitate them.

“Our work doesn’t end with us rescuing the children. We have to get a relief certificate issued first to declare that they were bonded labours and that they needed to be rescued and rehabilitated,” he informs.

“I even travelled to both Bihar and Jharkhand. But, my visit to Bihar has been more than 10 times. I did not only try to rehabilitate them but also delve more into our case study of 550 children, who had been working as bonded labours. I have visited their home and met their parents,” says Goyal.

Under The Bonded Labour system the (abolition) Act, children rescued from hubs where they had been serving as bonded labours get Rs 20,000 from the state, where he has been rescued from. On the other hand, his native state is bound to insure the the child’s education, health and hygiene is taken care of. And also, help their parents with employment opportunities. The family is marked as below poverty line (BPL) so that they can avail various schemes under the BPL programme.

However, despite doing everything that was needed to be done to help the rescued children, In 2015, Goyal noticed that the states were not acting in accordance with the prescribed guidelines of the Bonded Labour System (abolition) Act, he moved to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) too.

“I had helped in issuing around 544 relief certificates to those rescued. However, despite these children having the certificates, the concerned authorities have failed in providing relief to them in accordance with the Act. While working on this issue, the NHRC had issued notice not only to the government of Bihar and Rajasthan but also to various district administrations level,” he informs.

Goyal relentlessly works for a cause that he believes in without any awards and recognition, despite having played an instrumental role in rescuing children.

“If you will notice the smile on the faces of these kids when they reunite with their parents your heart wont crave for anything bigger,” the crusader signs off.

Shahnawaz Akhtar

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

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