In one of the biggest operations in recent months to rescue child labourers, a joint team of the Labour Department, Delhi Police and an NGO rescued 93 children from gold and jewellery factories in Karol Bagh.
All the rescued children were working in hazardous gold and silver melting units in Regharpura and Beadonpura areas of Karol Bagh. Of the 93 children, 57 are below 14 years of age and some even 9-10 years of age. The rest of the children are between 14-18 years of age.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an NGO, had got tips and input that a large number of children are working in extremely hazardous conditions in the illegal units in the Karol Bagh area. "We had deployed a team of our activists who gathered intelligence and the exact buildings where the children were working," said Kailash Satyarthi, Chairman of the NGO.
Labour and Industry Minister Mangat Ram Singhal said the working conditions of the children were extremely bad. "They were locked inside and had to work in difficult and hazardous conditions," he told the Hindustan Times. The minister said more such raids would take place as the government believed in "zero tolerance" towards child labour.
The raiding team comprised of the local police, the area SDM, the BBA and the Labour Department of Delhi government. Specific input was provided by the NGO and the team raided 25 buildings in the lanes and by-lanes of Karol Bagh. When the rescued children were brought in the police station, a mob gathered and demonstrated.
"It was difficult to get information as the children ventured out only in the morning to buy basic necessities. But the efforts and surveillance of the last 15 days paid off and we managed to rescue the children from inhospitable conditions," said Satyarthi.
The team of BBA found that the children were exposed to chemical fumes and dust along with acid. They were also exposed to the dust from metals like silver and gold during the process of melting and shining. "No child can remain unhealthy in such circumstances," Satyarthi added.
Of the 93 rescued children, 90 hail from West Bengal and 2 from Bihar. One child was from Rajasthan. They have been lodged in Mukti Ashram, a home for such children, run by the BBA. Their medical examination would be done to determine what health problems are the children facing. After completing the legal formalities, the children would be sent back to the respective states for rehabilitation.