Bangalore: The sixth edition of Real Heroes is celebrating ordinary women performing extraordinary service. Real hero Saroja amma is fighting child labour in Karnataka's silk industries. According to the Census 2011, 12.6 million children work as labourers in India. India has the highest number of child labourers in the world, according to UNICEF.
In the silk twisting units of Magadi, thousands of children are put to work for their nimble fingers. They toil away for long hours, their frail bodies bent over in low-lit factories.
Saroja visited the silk units of Magadi, 70 km form Bangalore, as a researcher in the 1990s. She stayed back to change lives forever. Moved by the plight of the children, Saroja organised raids and rescued over 1,200 children between 1999 and 2005. Her research led to a PIL being filed against Magadi silk industries. Saroja's efforts have led to over 800 of the 1,000-odd silk factories shutting down.
"Our approach was raid, rescue, rehabilitation and mainstream school. But we focused more on prevention than rescue. We built up a rapport with the people in the villages to ensure that no other child enters such industries in the first place," Sarojamma said.
With the realisation that the young girls rescued had no homes to go back to, Saroja started 'Chiguru Balvikas Sanstha'. The sanstha is also home to young girls who were being abused as domestic help. The girls lovingly today call her Amma.