Eighty-Two children, bare foot and barely clothed, were on Tuesday rescued from factories, where they worked in cramped conditions preparing mirror frames from broken bangles in return for no salary.
The children, trafficked from Katihar district in Bihar, were rescued from lac factories in LNJP Colony in raids by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a non-government organisation, with help from local officials.
Twenty children were rescued from a zari-embroidery and ball-bearing unit in Lahori Gate. Police said they were trafficked from Motihari district, also in Bihar, and Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh.
The children said they worked from 10 in the morning to 2 am In return for their labour, they were given two meals but no salary.
Up to 10 children were packed into a room each in the factory, where “they ate, slept and worked — they were never allowed out except to bathe”, 12-year-old Masum (name changed), one of the rescued children, told police.
The children said local agents, relatives or employers paid their parents sums ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 to bring them to the city. “My employer Salim gave my father Rs 3,000 as my mother was ill. In turn, my father sent me to Delhi to pay off the money,” said Muhammad (name changed), tears rolling down his eyes.
The rescued children had been working for the past three months to three years.
Hundreds of factories in Lahori Gate and LNJP Colony employ children illegally in hazardous work and the Labour Department, helped by police and NGOs, frequently carry out raids to rescue them.
Across India, 12 million children sweat it out in such shops, preparing such items as stone-studded fancy purses, shoes and belts one sees in upscale fashion showrooms to blowing molten glass. Most are trafficked from eastern states like West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
Child rights activists say raids are not the solution. “Scattered and tiny operations like these are not a complete solution to stem the influx of poor children to the Capital’s labour market. Until and unless the administration takes bold initiatives like rigorous and widespread combing operations and punitive action against the agents, employers and accompaniments, this menace will continue,” said Kailash Satyarthi, a child rights activist.
Raids should be followed up by rehabilitation of these children, which never happens, he says. “Most of these children often find their way to the cities after being sent to their villages.”
Under law, all children are to be rehabilitated, given Rs 20,000 and allowed to benefit from government schemes like housing on a priority basis, besides enrollment in a school.