Breaking free

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Naveen Kumar

Every child labourer wants to break free from the shackles of bondage but perhaps some want much more than freedom. Naveen Kumar is no different. Once a child labourer Naveen Kumar from Andhra Pradesh out of sheer genius created his own innovative cooker which got him a national award.

This boy from Madanpalli in Andhra Pradesh had faced a lot in life. Life had not been kind to him, but he fought all odds to come out as a true winner.

At 12, Naveen has the rare distinction of inventing an eco friendly mechanism to cook food which was cost – effective with zero pollution. He used raw materials like toasted coconut shells, cellulose lime powder and others to prepare it. And his efforts bore fruit. He won the national award for it from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

For some unforeseen circumstances Naveen had to drop out of school in the fourth standard and work at a tea stall to complement his father’s meagre income. His family lacked a proper shelter or a steady source of income. It was here that PORD- People’s Organization for Rural Development, a project by CRY identified him and his family as part of their social work.

They had to try and convince the parents to send him  back to school. The incentives in the form of mid day meals, free books and free uniform could not make his parents send him to school. The parents refused to budge.

The  PORD team approached the Sarpanch and after approval of a self employment loan his parents finally relented and Naveen was re-enrolled back in 5 th class along with his younger brother who had dropped out as well.

With time Naveen started participating in child collective meetings and also became part of the cultural team and gained exposure, confidence and leadership skills. The youngster having gained confidence on himself he became part of a Science Exhibition. He started identifying the issues that schools faced and one was pollution.

Out of the 450 projects that were displayed in the exhibition, only 70 projects were selected for State level. And one belonged to Naveen.

He qualified for the national level competition conducted at Delhi.

The success has changed Naveen and his family’s life. His mother joined a self help group and now works in a bakery.

Naveen now brimming with life wants to be an engineer in the near future.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, citing the Census 2011 data, says around 26% children engaged in child labour fall under age group of five to nine years and the rest under 10-14 years.

In India, as many as 65 per cent kids suffer from bad health; while 40 per cent are child labourers.

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