Sixteen child labourers, all aged between nine and sixteen, were rescued from a bakery's manufacturing unit in the capital, a child rights body said today.
A member of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the NGO which assisted the rescue operation, said, "All the 16 children were found to be working in very high temperatures which is important to increase the activity of yeast for the formation of bread. The huge, open ovens also affected their skin leading to minor burns and dermatological ailments."
"At the time of the rescue, most of the children were found to be working without gloves and masks to protect them from the direct heat," the official added.
The bakery in which the children were employed exports its products to the US, Canada and Gulf countries.
The rescue operation was conducted by the Delhi government's task force on the Elimination of Child Labour, the Delhi Police and the labour department, with assistance from BBA. The operation was conducted late Monday.
"All the children hail from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Some kids who were found involved in the packing process complained that they sat in the same posture for more than 14 hours a day sealing bread and rusks in snazzy packets," the official said.
Deepak, one of the rescued children, said, "Because of the dense smoke in the factory, my eyes have become sore. When things started getting worse, I was told to help in packing. I had to sit on the ground for more than eight hours at a stretch to earn Rs.20 a week."
R.S. Chaurasia, chairperson of BBA, said, "There were around 70 children working in this factory but most of them were forced to run away as information about the raid spread. Even the elders who are working here do not receive minimum wages set by the government. If this is the situation in reputed factories, one can only imagine the plight in local production units."
The children have been given release certificates which entitle them to a rehabilitation sum of Rs.20,000 each.