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He wants to become a doctor

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: "As a domestic worker at least you get to see the country,'' said 17-year-old Pronoy Sarkar at the launch of Save the Children Fund's (SCF) Campaign Against Child Domestic Work here in the Capital on Sunday.

Speaking in fluent Hindi, Pronoy -- a Bangladeshi - said that he has worked as a child labour in India since his mother brought him to Kolkata at the age of nine. "After my mother's death, I took myself out of school to support my younger brothers,'' he said. Pronoy then worked in Guwahati railway station and came to the notice of the Army after the August 1998 bomb blast. "The Army had to do something, so they began chasing us station boys,'' he added.

"An officer said he would educate me if I worked for him,'' but Pronoy just worked. Having run away from the officer's family while holidaying in Jammu, Pronoy said it was a road accident that changed his life. "God works mysteriously! After the accident I was sent to hospital and then to Delhi where I am studying at St. John Hindi Medium School.''

However, Pronoy wants to return home -- Bangladesh. "Apart from my mother all the rest of my family members died in our village,'' he said. As for the future, Pronoy wants to become a doctor and help his villagers so that others do not need to leave home like him. "Having learnt and lived with boys from all over India, I think I can help overcome communal problems in Bangladesh,'' he added.

Preventing future cases like Pronoy requires "more than laws, it requires a change in the nation's mindset'', said Joydeb Mazumdar of the SCF. A method of challenging ingrained cultural practices was outlined by Loreto School teacher Christine D. Rozario. "Loreto School encourages students to make friends with domestic child workers in an attempt to teach them about the lives of children engaged as domestic help.Finally, we try to use the school children to either expose cruelty to the domestic workers or shame the employers into freeing the child workers."

In the short term, SCF and its allied organisations are attempting to free domestic child workers and returning them to their villages.

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