Tarun Gupta, a resident of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, after witnessing the abuses slum-dwelling and orphaned children in his town face, couldn’t just continue with his regular day job. With a supportive family and Kailash Satyarthi as his role model, he went on to rescue children who were working as household laborers, started spreading awareness on child rights, bonded labour, child labour, and human trafficking; and established the first orphanage of Ghaziabad.
It all started when Tarun became a father. Being members of the privileged class, his family received numerous gifts from friends and relatives. Most of these gifts were either redundant or things they didn’t need. Tarun planned to distribute these extra gifts among impoverished and underprivileged children living in slums who might find them useful. The experience he had in the process of meeting and speaking with children changed his life.
Fast forward a decade and today Tarun runs an orphanage for underprivileged children, called ‘Prerana Seva Sansthan.’ He also runs a day-care centre for children living in slums that provides these children with education, regular medical checkups, and other basic facilities.An MBA in sales and marketing, Tarun was working for a large corporation and was running his firm as an entrepreneur which provided HR consultancy. In 2006, when he became a father, he realised how fragile lives of children are, and why they must be protected from being exploited. Tarun recalls,
“When we started distributing the extra gifts among children living in a slum near my office, some of my friends, colleagues, and neighbours joined in and started distributing things which they didn’t need. I spoke to these children, and tried to delve deeper into their lives. Soon I realised that they need more than just gifts.”
He wanted to do something more fundamental to help improve the lives of these children, who didn’t have a future to look forward to. He continued helping these children on an ad-hoc basis, trying to figure out ways to help them in a better way. Soon he got in touch with Kailash Satyarthi’s ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) and started his work for ‘Child Right Advocacy’. Tarun recalls,
“Those days, our focus was to understand the available government policies which were focussed on finding impoverished and orphaned children who had disappeared. We visited different government offices in the process, only to realise that most of these policies do not cause any impact at the ground level. Slum children are constantly subjected to bonded labour, child labour, and human trafficking. We raised the issues to different ministries. We also brought the issues of child right violation, which we witnessed along the way, to the notice of NCPCR and NHRC.”
When Ghaziabad police ran its ‘Operation Smile’ to search for missing children, Tarun had a major role to play. His active participation and awareness drives helped the police bring back many children to their families. Soon he realised that there is no single platform in India which focusses on making the information on missing children publicly available. Tarun says,
“Every year thousands of children disappear in India, but there is no centralised database which makes the information on these children available. To address this problem at the ground level, we started publishing an annual database called ‘Missing Children of Ghaziabad’ which contained an exhaustive database of children from Ghaziabad who went missing.”
In 2012, Tarun went on to build ‘Prerana Parivar Bal Ashram,’ the first orphanage of Ghaziabad. Despite unavailability of funds, the initiative has continued to grow. He is currently running it out of a rented house with 26 orphaned children living under one roof and receiving food, healthcare, education, and a better life. Tarun tells us,“We had to face a lot of problems to start the orphanage. We didn’t have a place for these children to stay, nor did we have any funds. Today, we can proudly say that we have been able to manage the orphanage without any government funding and 18 of our children study in a private school. Their fees are paid on time. We are trying to provide them with the best quality of life and all the facilities kids of their age deserve and desire.”
He also started a day care to educate children who scavenge and beg on streets. Totally, 45 children are a part of this day care, who not only receive education but are also provided with regular health, dental, and eye checkups, seasonal clothes, and other timely facilities.
Tarun tells us how difficult it gets at times to run these. These initiatives are completely dependent on individual donations. He says,“Funds are scarce but things have a way to work themselves out. We recently purchased a plot for 45 lakhs where we are planning to build an orphanage with much better facilities. I have sold my shops to raise money for this, and the construction work will begin soon. The total estimated budget for our project is rupees 2.5 crore, which we are still in the process of gathering.”
Apart from running these institutions, Tarun also goes around to other villages and towns and helps free children who work as household workers, laborers, and children subjected to human trafficking. He believes that prevention, protection, and rehabilitation are all equally important. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi remains his role model.
Tarun has certainly come a long way since the day his son was born. He watches his son grow, and in parallel, watches his initiatives take shape and pave way for things to come in the future. When asked about his ideology, he quotes Nida Fazli’s famous poem –
‘‘घर से मस्जिद है बहुत दूर चलो यूँ कर लें,
किसी रोते हुए बच्चे को हंसाया जाए।’’
(The mosque is too far from home
Let’s make a crying child smile.)
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