Purna Chandra Kishan: Saving Children From a Life of Labour

Purna Chandra Kishan cracked the whip on labour contractors and saved thousands of children in Rajasthan from dying in the killing fields of Gujarat

Published: Aug 20, 2012 06:54:58 AM IST
Updated: Aug 20, 2012 08:11:13 AM IST
Purna Chandra Kishan: Saving Children From a Life of Labour
Image: Amit Verma

Purna Chandra Kishan
Profile: After serving as district collector of Dholpur and Dungarpur, Kishan is now heading the National Rural Livelihood Mission in Rajasthan
His achievement
His campaign against child trafficking in Dungarpur is one of the rare instances where the administration has managed to wipe out the menace from a district

In 2009, the district administration in Dungarpur in southern Rajasthan had to face a hostile situation. Hundreds of tribal people had taken to the streets demanding an inquiry into the deaths of children who were sent to work in cotton fields in the adjoining districts of Gujarat.

Eight children had died in the previous five years and the latest case had sparked a protest.  

While some children died of exposure to pesticides, in other cases they were suspected to have died due to malnourishment and ill-treatment. Snake-bite cases were also frequently reported at these farms.  

The labour contractors who had taken the children for work had also gone underground.  

The tribal people of Dungarpur started the agitation, demanding the labour contractors' arrest and compensation for the families of the children who had died.

Purna Chandra Kishan, then the district collector, decided that he needed to crack the whip to stop the child traffickers. In order to get support from the Bhils, the predominant tribe, Kishan roped in the tribal chiefs to participate in special task force teams that were established to monitor child trafficking in the district.

“Once we involved the tribal chiefs, we got more information. The contractors would pay the tribal families in advance Rs 30 per child for a day’s work. However, they themselves would pocket around Rs 120 per child from the cotton farmers. We knew the families who were contacted by the traffickers and were able to take preventive action,” said Kishan, an IIT-Kharagpur graduate.  

He also organised raids on the child traffickers and arrested some of the biggest contractors. The administration ensured that every vehicle passing through the district was searched, and hundreds of children were rescued during these surprise checks.

In 2009, around 30,000 children worked as labourers. But by the end of 2010, there were only a few hundred still working.

In order to ensure that the families did not suffer on account of money after the children were rehabilitated, the district collector urged the parents to participate in jobs under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). As the parents found steady work and enrolment figures for NREGS climbed, the dropout rates in schools declined.  

A senior district administration official says the work started by Kishan has ensured that the people of Dungarpur have become organised in their fight against traffickers. “Even today, the enrolment rates at the schools here are higher than what they used to be five years ago. The tribals are keeping a watch on the activities of the traffickers too.”  

Kishan, 37, who is from Orissa and now works with the National Rural Livelihood Mission, also authored an English learner’s book for children in Vagadi, a tribal language. The book is yet to be accepted as a standard textbook in Dungarpur as it would require clearance from the state government. However, several teachers have bought copies and have organised special English workshops for the tribal children.

“It is amazing to see how much can be done in a district if you make the local population part of your campaign. That is what I have learnt the most in Dungarpur,” said Kishan.

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(This story appears in the 31 August, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Purnadash

    very nice work of a adminstrator.i salute mr.kishan

    on Nov 12, 2015
  • Amilal Bishnoi

    Sir I hated my life and then I met to u. I inspired by your work i not see god but u come to my life and i meet my god u change my life. 19 jun 2013 u guide me time to time, I made Mazdur Sakti Sangthn (kishn) your support. I proud of u and family proud of me

    on Mar 25, 2015
  • Sandeep Kumar Jasel

    It is great and I am inspired. ....really really salute .......god bless sir..........

    on Feb 25, 2015
  • Surender Singh Suda Rajput (innovator)

    To, Sir....! All the best....!

    on Oct 9, 2014
  • Pawan Kumar Patwari Hanumangarh

    really an unbelievable achievement. Sir is also constantly caring for social welfare and rural employment in hanumangarh.

    on May 31, 2014
  • Rajender Riwar

    It is great and I am inspired. ....really really salute .......god bless sir......

    on Nov 21, 2013
  • Ashok Kumar Mohapatra

    it is great to know that his determinations are getting shape, i had the opportunity to see this talent of Purna Chandra Kissan at a very primitive stage , i am expecting many more achievements from him

    on Nov 28, 2012
  • Angelina Gregory

    It is great and I am inspired.

    on Sep 13, 2012
  • Sanjay Kumar Singh

    This is really a great start by a bravo man and we can say that man like Purna Chandra Kishan can lead our country towards a super power by eradicating all these malpractices like child labour etc.Keep it up man.

    on Aug 26, 2012
  • Nagesh Prabhu

    I have been always a criticizer of the NREGS, as I felt it is predominantly making the rural poor lazy. This story is an eye opener. I guess the scheme came handy to Purna Chandra without which it would have been a difficult journey.

    on Aug 25, 2012
  • Anuj Tiwari

    I think its big step taken by Purna Chandra towards dark issue of child trafficking. But we need more and strict actions taken by government against those contractors who involve in these type of games and playing with innocent children future as well as life.

    on Aug 25, 2012
  • Dr.s.pandian I.r.s

    Like his name Purna Chandra has focused full moon light on the dark issue of child trafficking to liberate thousands of child labourers/bonded labourers. Kudos to Purna Chandra Kishan.

    on Aug 20, 2012
  • Rahul Mahiwal

    grt effort by a grt person.. kudos to Purna...

    on Aug 20, 2012
  • Rohan

    Thank you for the inspiring article. The achievements of the better civil servants (and there are several) need to be held up as an example. I wish I had the option of voting for a man like this

    on Aug 20, 2012
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