Nobel peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi is a household name in Bhadohi, the carpet hub of India.
It was here that Satyarthi began his relentless struggle to save bonded child labourers in 1981. At that time, this small town, about 50 kms from Varanasi, was infamous for children working as bonded labourers in carpet industry. In fact, it was believed that only supple fingers of children could weave ‘magic’ on carpets.
In 90s, Satyarthi’s jeep making rounds of Bhadohi warning carpet units not to exploit children with a loudspeaker was a common sight.
The activist is also founder of RugMark, a widely known international scheme that tags all carpets made in factories that are child-labour free.
After Satyarthi’s campaign to save children from bonded labour got international acceptance RugMark gave way to GoodWeave in 1994.
Along with Swami Agnivesh, this Nobel Peace prize winner rescued 41 children from carpet industry from Balwariya village of Kon block, Mirzapur district.
All these children belonged to Palamu village now in Jharkhand state. It was after this famous Balwariya incident, Satyarthi launched ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’.
“When Satyarthi got information about children working as bonded labourers at a carpet factory in Mirzapur, he along with Swami Agnivesh came to Mirzapur and rescued children from a carpet factory in Balwariya village,” claimed Ramashankar Chaurashiya, national president of Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
“These children were captive for three years and were not allowed to meet their parents,” Chaurashiya added.
This crusader of child rights is said to have rescued not only about 10,000 children working as bonded labourers in Sonbhadra, Bhadohi, Mirzapur and other parts of eastern UP but also 1000 Nepalese girls from the region.