15 children rescued from liquor bottling factory in Chandigarh
Fifteen minors, including eight girls, working at a liquor bottling plant at Chandigarh’s Industrial Area, Phase 1, were rescued in a raid on Tuesday.
The joint raid was conducted by the district task force committee, childline, anti-human trafficking unit of Chandigarh Police and the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
After their medical examination, the rescued children — who are aged between 15 and 17 years and belong to Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and even as far as Tamil Nadu — have been shifted to the Snehalaya, where they will be kept in quarantine.
The Industrial Area police have initiated the process to book the owners of the unit, Rock and Storm Bottlers Private Limited, and the contractor through whom the children were arranged under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2015 for exploitation of children and employing them under hazardous conditions.
“The district administration has been continuously working towards non-tolerance towards child labour and this raid was aimed at ensuring the children are not deployed in hazardous industries,” said Mandip Singh Brar, deputy commissioner, Chandigarh. Harjit Singh Sandhu, subdivisional magistrate, central, said the children will be rehabilitated soon.
A tip-off and two-week recce
It was during a counselling session that a juvenile recently apprehended for a crime had said that he was working in a liquor factory along with many other minors.
“Recce was conducted for two weeks, and the raid was planned only after the information was found to be authentic,” said a senior official privy to the development.
Sources said the factory is engaged in bottling and packing around half a dozen liquor brands. When the raid was conducted, the children were found branding and filling the bottles.
“We suspect that there might be more children working in the plant,” said an officer, who did not wish to be named.
Covid protocol given the go-by
The team that raided the factory found about 200 people, mostly women and youngsters, working there without wearing masks. The premises was quite congested and unhygienic.
“The rescued girls have scars on their hands, which indicate they have come in direct contact with chemicals. Children cannot be deployed in hazardous factories,” said the officer.
The SDM (central) said action will also be taken for the violation of Covid safety protocol.
Wages, work hours being looked into
The labour department is also looking into wages being paid and the amount of hours the children were made to work.
During preliminary interaction, the children said they were paid ₹4,000-5,000 a month for working eight hours daily. According to officials, this is lower than the minimum wages fixed by the DC’s office.
Meanwhile, the child welfare committee will be interacting with the children to establish since when and in what circumstances they have been working at the factory. The district authorities would also be investigating the child trafficking angle.