A day after Anti-child Labour Day, 27 children were rescued from the clasps of traffickers from Thane station on Monday.
At 6.30am on Monday, when a technical problem forced the Jan Sadharan Express, travelling from Raxaul in Bihar to Mumbai, to end its journey at Thane, short of its final destination, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel and volunteers from Pratham, who had information that the train was carrying trafficked children, grew anxious.
“We had posted RPF constables at LTT to catch the traffickers and rescue the children,” said Sneha Shirgaonkar, assistant director for Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children (PCVC), Mumbai.
A quick rescue operation ensured that 27 children, who were brought to Mumbai to work in bag-making units, were rescued and the traffickers arrested.
“We had set up our rescue team at LTT, but when the train ended its journey at Thane we rushed our team to the station and rescued the children,” said Sachin Bhalode, senior divisional security commissioner, RPF.
The PVCV activists said the children were below 17 years and were accompanied by 21 adults. “It is indeed shocking that it was only yesterday (Sunday) that we observed Anti-child Labour Day and today, these innocent children are trafficked for work,” said Kishore Bhamre, director of PCVC.
Shirgaonkar said the children carried identity proofs, including Aadhar cards, which the volunteers suspect are fake. The children said they were 18 years and older, but when they were counselled it was found that many of them were younger .The youngest among them was 10 years old .
“The children say they have come with their relatives, but we know what the truth is. They have been taken to Makhurd, the government rescue home, as part of protocol,” she said.
“We have rescued several children before, but never in such large numbers. Child labour is a social problem. These children from north India are brought here with assurances. This case is being investigated into,” added Bhalode.