Atiq Ahmad, all of 12, used to put in 18 hours a day in a zari factory for the past four years. And he would make a mere Rs 30 every day. But his family in Bihar never received a single penny — his employers would pocket the entire sum — and nor did they ever get to meet their son. What’s worse, Ahmad’s tuberculosis, of which he was unaware, is now at its last stage, his family claims.
Ahmad is one of the 150 children rescued from various factories across the city by a district task force comprising Delhi Police, government officials and NGOs working for children.
Aged between seven and 12 years, these children were rescued in the past one-and-a-half months. They are now living in Mukti Ashram in north Delhi’s Burari. The ashram is providing them food and shelter and routinely holds medical check-ups.
“I used to get fever every other day. Whenever I complained about it, the Seth (employer) would beat me up. I used to work for 10 hours every day in a zari factory. After I was rescued, a medical examination revealed that I was suffering from tuberculosis. I and my family are going back to Bihar where the treatment will continue,” said Aslam Akram, from Sitamarhi district in Bihar.
Though illegal, children younger than 14 years continue to work in inhuman conditions, without getting a single meal, and suffer from many ailments. “Following our several complaints, raids were conducted and nearly 150 children were rescued. Many of them suffer from serious ailments such as tuberculosis, damaged liver and skin diseases,” said Rakesh Sengar, an activist with the Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
The Delhi government has also started sealing the factories where these children used to work. “We have given directions that the factory should be sealed in case it employs children. We had sealed a few factories last month,” said a senior Delhi government official.