In 1980, Laxman Singh was seven-year-old and working at a stone quarry in Faridabad with his parents. Thirty-four years later, Singh is a treasurer at Bachpan Bachao Andolan headquarters at Kalkaji in Delhi.
“I would have languished as a stone quarry labourer in Faridabad had Kailash Satyarthi not made efforts to rescue us,” he said.
Singh was among 2,500 workers and their children who were rescued from the stone quarry by a team of activists, led by Satyarthi — his first rescue operation.
“I do not even remember details of the rescue operation. But I do remember that Kailash Satyarthi and his team would meet us regularly to raise awareness about our rights,” Singh said.
He recollects how quarry workers were held to ransom by the owners. “We were bonded labourers. Having taken loans from the owners, the workers were indebted to them. They felt that they could never get out of this vicious cycle due to debt.” Singh’s parents came to Faridabad in search of employment from Harpalpur village in Madhya Pradesh.
Following his first rescue operation, Satyarthi convinced Singh’s parents to get him enrolled at a school.
“There were many children who went back to their homes in different states after being rescued but I was among those few who started studying at Gurukul Indraprastha,” recalled Singh.
Singh then began teaching at a school — Mukti Ashram Vidyalaya, set up by Satyarthi’s team — in Faridabad. In 1995, he joined the NGO. From working in the administrative wing of the organisation, Singh now serves as its treasurer.
Singh is not the only rescued person who has continued his association with the organisation. A first year student of BSc (life sciences) at Acharya Narendra Dev College in Delhi University, Mohammad Manan Ansari was rescued by the organisation from a mica mine in Kodarma, Jharkhand.
“Six years ago, I was working in a mica mine in Kodarma where we would work with hazardous waste, around 300 feet below the ground,” he said.