Sachin, 23 from the village Paratwadi Tanda, Block Partur, District Jalna is a Person Living with Disability. He’s pursuing second year of Bachelor of Arts, through Yashwantrao Chavan Open University.
The landless Adhe family from Paratwad Tanda village in Aurangabad district has been engaged in farm labour for sustenance since years. After monsoon the family used to migrate to sugarcane farms in Karnataka. The season from Dusshera to Holi, from October to March, is the sugarcane harvesting season. ‘My parents used to cut sugarcane using a sickle and we children used to collect the ‘wadha’ (lower end of the cane) and sell it in the market which was two kms away from the farm. We used to earn anything between 5 to 10 rupees every day. In the bargain, I was losing out on school. But I used to go back to the school for writing exams and I would return to the farm. This grind of traveling back and forth was taking a toll on my health and my education. My class teacher sensed my distress and gave me support. I told my parents that I would be staying back in the village and won’t be traveling with them to the sugarcane farm.
‘I started attending school regularly and used to cook my own meals at home. During that period UNICEF with the help of a local NGO, Swaraj Gramin Vikas Pratishthan (SGVP), started a campaign to avert the migration of school-going children. I completed my education and joined hands with others who had been working on the issue of migration of children’.
SGVP is engaged in protecting the rights of children. ‘I got acquainted with Madhav Hiwale, Someshwar Sontakke and, Bhaskar Salve; functionaries of Swaraj Gramin. They had embarked on a study to find out the status of children who had migrated with parents, the number of child marriages in the village and malnutrition among the migrated children.’
‘The state of the children migrating with parents is pathetic. They have to get up at 3 am in the morning, have to take a cold-water bath. They also have to assist their parents in sugarcane-cutting for more than 12 hours a day. They not only miss out on school, their childhood is taken away from them. They miss out on the right to rest, the right to play and the right to nutrition’. A Child Protection Committee was established in the village on 1 st October, 2015. Bal Mitra (friend of children) volunteers were trained on child protection. After the study with Swaraj Gramin, the NGO embarked on a campaign to persuade parents to leave behind their children under the care and supervision of grandparents and Balmitra of the village. ‘We had the responsibility of averting the migration of a group of 25 children and we are happy to inform that we succeeded in doing that. We engaged with their parents and grandparents. Finally, parents acquiesced and we took charge of 25 children. To give best of our love and efforts was our responsibility’.
Sachin and his group developed a work plan- education, nutrition, entertainment, play and study. ‘Balmitras take care of their health, study and recreation. We are called ‘bin pagari full adhikari’ (Full authority without salary), it’s a scorn but we have taken it head on. Yes, we work honorary, there’s nothing like social service. Now children from other villages too have joined us. They don’t migrate with their parents. Balmitras take care of them in the village with the help of Village Child Protection committee, Angan Wadi Worker and villagers’ shares Sachin.
The story of migration doesn’t end here, there’s a twist in the tale. Just as Paratwadi village’s daily wage earners left for work, their area sees an influx of workers to the stone quarries located in the adjoining village. They migrate from Karnataka with children in tow. What have Sachin and group done to address the in-migration of children?
‘We went to the area and did our survey and sent our report to the Village Child Protection Committee. These children help out their parents in the quarry work. They miss out on education, nutrition and play time. The Committee held meetings with the quarry workers. Their children were admitted to the village school and their younger ones were admitted to the Anganwadi. All these children are looked after by teachers, Anganwadi Workers and us- Balmitras. They get nutrition, education and protection’.
Sachin and Balmitra have averted the migration of 80 % of children from the village. Paratwadi Tanda’s population is 2500, out of these, 1375 are registered voters. Previously many families used to migrate for work. Things have changed for the better now. Only 180 have shifted to western Maharashtra for sugar cane cutting this year. That’s a tremendous
achievement in itself.
Written by: Sushil Deshmukh
Translated by: Alka Gadgil