Rajasthan: A government teacher in a village school teaches child traffickers a lesson
A teacher in the government primary school, in Pargiyapada village, Rajasthan has found himself in the role of a saviour as he has swooped in and rescued 400 children in and around the area from the clutches of child traffickers.
Amarpal Singh Verma 23 Feb 2023 10:38 AM GMT
Durgaram Muval, a teacher at a government primary school at Pargiyapada village in Udaipur district, Rajasthan, has become a household name because of his herculean efforts to rescue hundreds of children from the clutches of child traffickers.
Pargiyapada village lies about 54 kilometres from the district headquarters and has a population of about 2000, most of them Adivasis, who depend on forest produce for their livelihood.
Muval joined the school in March 2008. “Barely a month into my new appointment, I stumbled upon something disturbing. I learnt that children from the villages in the area were being trafficked to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh etc., to work in farms, hotels and factories there,” the 37-year-old teacher told Gaon Connection.
“Extreme poverty sometimes led to the parents playing into the hands of the child traffickers. “The police are helpless too. The parents of the children retract their statements and sometimes it is obvious that they have handed over their kids to be taken away in exchange for money,” Muval said.
Just last month, on January 25, Muval prevented an 11-year-old child from being taken away by the traffickers.
The biggest rescue operation happened on April 10, 2022. “My companions and I were suspicious about the movements of a woman and were keeping an eye on her. Sure enough on April 10, she had gathered 25 girls at Bagpur village and had seated them in a vehicle, when we reached there. She and her accomplices fled the scene and we brought the 25 girls home. We learnt later that there were nearly 100 girls who were to be trafficked from there that day,” Muval said. So far, Muval has rescued more than 400 children, most of them girls from the clutches of the traffickers, he said.
When Muval was appointed as a government school teacher at the higher secondary school at Pargiayapada, a long distance away from his native Degana village in Nagaur district, in 2008, he had no inkling he would be dealing with child traffickers.
“Soon after I joined, a 12-year-old student of class six, along with his sister were abducted. The parents went to the police station, but nothing came of it,” Muval said. The following day, the parents approached him and begged him to do something. “At that moment I promised them that I would get their children back, but I had no idea how I would go about it,” Muval said.
He lived about six kilometres from school and it was his habit to jog there and back home at the end of the day. As a result he became a familiar figure in the area. So, he began asking people along the way if they knew anything about the racket. He was passed around from one contact to another till, one of them admitted to picking up the kids
“To cut a long story short, I told him to return the kids home or else I would file an FIR,” Muval said. He is still surprised how the kids were dropped back at their parents’ the following day!
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According to Muval, there is a certain social stigma attached to filing FIRs and parents are not willing to do that.
That was when more and more cases of children being taken away came to his attention. Distraught parents began to approach him to help them track their children down. “I built up a team of informers and would get information when plans were afoot to smuggle children out,”. Muval said.
Seen as a saviour
Jagdish Kasaut, the sarpanch of Madri Gram Panchayat, under which Pargiyapada falls, lauded the school teacher’s heroic deeds. “He has not just rescued children from being trafficked, but he has also got them back into the classrooms to get an education,” he told Gaon Connection.
“Three years ago a class six student, of Pargiyapada was taken away to Gujarat to work as labour. But, when Master ji learnt of it, he began to investigate and ultimately his investigations led him to where she was. He brought her back from there and handed her over to her parents,” sarpanch Kasaut, said.
Muval gets a lot of support from the police and the childline. “The childline works from 10 am to 4 pm, while the trafficking happens mostly at night. So sometimes there is no way to inform anyone or ask for help. At other times the patchy mobile network lets us down. But whenever we have sought the help of the police and the childline officials, they have extended full help,” he said. So far, as a result of the FIRs filed by some of the parents, the police have been able to nab about 30 child traffickers, Muval added.
Mohanram Lohar, the subcoordinator of the childline services in Jhadol area was all praises for the work Muval was doing.
“Muval is preventing child labour and providing education to them. I have seen him operate work at close quarters and if only more people were like him, the children of our country would always be safe,” Lohar told Gaon Connection.
Narendra Tak, additional district education officer, Udaipur said that the problem of child trafficking was an old one in the district, but Muval had done spectacular work in standing up to it. “No other educator has worked like he has to stem the rot. He has clashed with the traffickers unmindful of the danger he has put himself into and also worked with parents of the children to prevent children being given away,” Tak told Gaon Connection.
An exemplary role model
A one-man-army is how Jagriti Meghwal, nodal officer of Pargiyapada school where Muval teaches, described him. “He is ready for anything and has become an exemplary model for the children, by his display of courage,” Meghwal, who is also principal of a senior secondary school in Madri village, told Gaon Connection.
When he is not on a rescue drive or teaching, Muval, a yoga practitioner, encourages the students and other villagers to learn yoga too. He spreads awareness about health and hygiene in the village. He uses innovative methods to keep the children engaged in the classroom and is specially focussed about environmental matters.
“Not just in the school where he teaches, but thanks to Muval’s work ethics, the schools in neighbouring villages too have shown an increase in enrolment,” Tak said.
In acknowledgement of his singular service, he won the National Award for Teachers that was given to him by President Draupadi Murmu on Teacher's Day, on 5th September 2022. Earlier that year, on April 17, he was also honoured by the then Inspector General of Police, Udaipur, Hinglaj Dan Barhath.
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