The stories of India’s child laborers, often abducted from their parents and taken hundreds of miles away to work in brutal conditions, rarely have happy endings. But a father’s quest to find his three children in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, resulted in their freedom.
The Hindustan Times reports a larger-than-life story of a man identified only as “Jagram” who traveled 500 kilometers–more than 300 miles–donning various disguises and using money he received from mortgaging his house to find his children in Nepal after arriving home one day to find that the three boys had been abducted.
Armed with the money from mortgaging his home, wages he earned cleaning vehicles, and money he received while disguised as a beggar along the way, Jagram was told by an NGO that his children may have been taken to work in Nepal.
It took Jagram 20 days to find his children in Nepal, according to the paper. Jagram hatched a plan to get closer to his sons, finding them working 3 a.m. to 5 p.m. at a brick-making operation near Kathmandu, in addition to four other boys who had been abducted from his village. About 100 children were estimated to work at that factory. To get closer to his sons, the Hindustan Times writes, “he took up work as a labourer at the factory where he found four more children from his village. He asked them not to reveal his identity and to wait for the right moment to escape.”
Jagram tried to escape with the seven children, but security rapidly caught the group, “took them to a secluded place and thrashed the victims mercilessly.” Jagram was eventually freed and the children returned to the factory, but the beating was enough for Jagram to alert authorities, who raided the facility and returned the children to Jagram. Jagram told the paper he had to do everything to save his children:
I dreamt of educating my children and giving them a better life. When flood ravaged my village in 2013, I moved to Lucknow and worked at a construction site while my wife and the three children stayed in the village. I returned on hearing that my sons had gone missing.
Child slavery has become a focal point for the international human rights community, and has taken center stage after Kailash Satyarthi, the head of the, Global March Against Child Labor and a longtime activist against the use of children for forced labor, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Between ten and thirty million children in India and neighboring countries, it is estimated, are forced to work in a variety of industries–from construction to working with chemicals–due to a significant lack of economic opportunity and the government’s inability to enforce labor laws appropriately.