Twenty two-year-old Jharna Joshi, a BBA student from Ahmedabad, India, is no less than a hero for saving hundreds of children from slavery.
The brave girl conducted a secret operation on her own and rescued 111 child laborers (100 of them were girls) working in one of the biggest ceramic factories in Morbi, Gujarat.
Joshi suspected something was fishy about the company when she noticed buses transporting children to and fro from the factory near her cousin’s house.
Dismayed by the lack of action from law enforcement, she decided to do something about it herself and applied for a job at the factory.
In a couple of weeks she learned much about the factory, like that most of the workers were children forced to work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and were not allowed to go outside. Many had to work in high-temperature areas like furnaces without any food or water.
"I told them that I was a management student and applied for office work. However, they had no vacancy and offered me work in pasting and design of cups and saucers. In 15 days, I saw most of these children were below 18 years and they were forced to work in hostile conditions," she said.
At first she tried to approach concerned departments without much success. She then wrote to the office of Chief Minister Kantilal Amrutiya and got a response.
Officials from police department, labor department, social defense, employment department, factory inspector and child protection officer jointly raided the unit and rescued the children from the factory.
Such acts of bravery, though, sometimes have drastic consequences.
The brave girl was attacked by two unidentified men not long afterward and was admitted to a local hospital with injuries on her forehead, arms and legs.
“They halted me by crossing my way and asked if I was Jharna, the girl who rescued child laborers. Just as I said ‘yes’, they attacked me,” she told the press.
It is estimated that India has 60 million child laborers. Most parents can’t afford to send their children to school and in order to make ends meet put them to work where they are mercilessly exploited.
Experts say India has excellent anti-slavery laws but enforcement is sporadic and inconsistent. It remains one of the few nations not to have ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention.