The number of minors made to work as labourers in factories or pushed into begging witnessed a steep fall in 2016 after the Mumbai police initiate a massive crackdown in 2015 and booked accused under the stringent Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections for human trafficking, unlike in the past.
As per the statistics available with the Social Service Branch (SS Branch) of the Mumbai Crime Branch, a total of 752 minors were rescued from labour work in 458 cases in 2016. In 2015, a massive crackdown took place in which 1,039 minors were rescued in 515 cases. Last year, a total of 165 minors were rescued in 47 cases where they were forced into begging at traffic signals, while in 2015, a total of 457 minors were rescued in 208 cases.
Explaining the sudden decrease in child labour, deputy commissioner of police (Enforcement) Pravinkumar Patil, under whom the SS Branch operates, said, “In 2015, we started booking the accused in child labour cases under section 370 (1) of the IPC, unlike previously when a special LAC used to be registered under the relevant sections of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.”
An official from the Juvenile Aid Protection Unit (JAPU) of the SS Branch, which conducts these raids, said, “Section 370 (1) of the IPC deals with human trafficking for the purpose of physical exploitation, which is a serious offence and hence attracts a harsher punishment. Due to these factors, its become difficult for the accused to get bail and they languishes in and jail for longer periods. This has deterred the accused from employing minors.”
The officers said the dens for child labour are the same for past few years i.e. Agripada, Nagpada and Dharavi in Central Mumbai and Shivaji Nagar in eastern suburbs. But, the number of children forced into labour work at these locations decreased last year. The minors are given free food, accommodation and stipend for making leather products and imitation work. Most of the minors are from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan.