She was thousands of miles away from her home in Assam, her childhood wasting away in the drudgery of housework. Trapped in a grey apartment block in east Delhi, beaten up for not doing enough work, Parul (name changed) never thought she would be free again. But unknown to her, a young saviour had heard her prayers.
Natasha (name changed), who lives in the same block of flats where the 11-year-old worked as a maid, had heard about Parul’s plight — the frequent beatings, the harassment and how she was forced to shave her hair. But unlike other people in Vasundhara Enclave, this teenager chose not to look away. She called the child helpline of the NGO Social Jurist to report the exploitation of the child. The NGO then contacted the Labour Commission.
Sure enough, on Wednesday morning, a team from the Labour Commission of Delhi knocked on the door of the Bengali family who had brought Parul to Delhi from Silchar in Assam and rescued her.
“We are trying to trace her family in Assam. Parul’s employers will have to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 for employing a minor. Till we find her family, Parul will be lodged in our welfare home at Nirmal Chhaya,” said K.R. Verma, deputy labour commissioner.
Parul might have found a saviour but thousands of children like her are not as lucky. “There is a law against employing children below 14. But thousands of such children are working as domestic servants in posh Delhi houses. These kids are not rescued. Even the families employing them don’t know that what they are doing is illegal,” said Ramesh Gupta, president of Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
NGOs working on child trafficking complain that the issue does not get the priority it deserves. “The Labour Commission acts only when we push them. The government has not kept a check on the placement agencies which are mostly responsible for trafficking young children to Delhi,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini.