At least 15 of them, hailing from Bihar, Assam and Karnataka, are minors

Seventeen teenagers, all boys, who were working in Halli Mane in Malleswaram were rescued from the restaurant on Tuesday afternoon. At least 15 of them are minors, according to rescue team members.

The rescue operation was jointly carried out by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the CID Cell and Bachpan Bachao Andolan (a non-governmental organisation) along with the help of the Malleswaram police.

Speaking to The Hindu, Vani Kantil, a member of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said: “The children mostly hailed from Bihar, Assam and different parts of Karnataka. At least 15 of them are minors. They were made to wash vessels, clean floors, chop vegetables and also provide service to customers sometimes. They worked for about eight to 10 hours a day. Some of them even worked in shifts from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., while others would work in the early hours from around 3 a.m.”

Ms. Kantil said that many of them had dropped out of school in either primary school or high school, while some had not gone to school at all.

“The rescue team also faced a problem while communicating to the children. Many of them speak a native tongue mixed with Hindi so it takes some time for us to collect the information and their background in detail,” a member said.

Separate accommodation

Police officials said the children had been provided separate accommodation near the restaurant.

However, they said that it was reasonably spacious and was not in a bad condition.

“Some of them who could be passed off as above 18 years, were made to work in the restaurant, while some who looked underage were a part of the catering service,” they said.

A CID Cell official said that the rescue operation was carried out around 12.30 p.m. after they were tipped off by the local police. He said child welfare officers had even issued notices to the restaurant earlier but they had not paid heed to them. The children were later taken to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

When asked about the rescue, an employee of Halli Mane, who brought food to them in the evening, said the boys had sought employment at the restaurant about three months ago, stating that they were poor.

He claimed that the boys worked from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and were paid about Rs. 5,500 per month. However, a member of Bachpan Bachao Andolan said that the teenagers were not being paid minimum wages.

A case has been booked with the Malleswaram police.