27 children rescued from five units, three of them are under 14

There was a lingering aroma in the air and it could well have been the sweet smell of freedom for these children. They sat together, chatting and joking among themselves about the hullabaloo going on around them.

These youngsters were rescued from five different places, including a perfumery, in Peenya Industrial Area, by a team headed by Bangalore Urban Deputy Commissioner G.C. Prakash on Saturday. Of the 27 children rescued, three are below 14.

Sushmita (name changed) said she was happy after being rescued from the perfumery. “I dropped out of school after Class 8. We were made to work long hours. Now, I can think about going back to school,” said the 16-year-old.

‘Delivering lunch’

Two of the three child labourers claimed that they had gone to the perfumery to deliver lunch to their grandmothers who rolled agarbathis there. “While there, they asked us to help them move a few gunny sacks. This was when the raid happened and we were brought here,” one of them said.

Valli, mother of one of the rescued child labourers, who rushed to the Deputy Commissioner’s office on hearing about the raid, claimed that none of her three sons were sent to work. She also claimed that her son had gone to the perfumery to meet her mother.

According to N.B. Ramachandra, Labour Officer, Subdivision 1, Bangalore, the team raided Charu Perfumery House, Shakti Rubber Industry, T-Light Industry, D Car Garage and Gajanana Fast Food and rescued four girls and 23 boys.

Tipped off

He said the Deputy Commissioner’s office had received information about the children working in cramped and unhygienic conditions.

The raid was conducted with support from a non-governmental organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

It may be recalled that on January 22, the Deputy Commissioner’s office rescued 50 children after a tip-off.

Speaking to journalists later, Mr. Prakash said that during the raid they found that the children were confined in a dark place and were made to work for as much as 12 hours a day.

Of the 27 children, five are from Odisha, five from Jharkhand, two from Nepal and the rest from Karnataka.

“They were probably just given two meals a day, as there are no salary records. They were found to be working in highly unhygienic conditions. After they were rescued, we subjected all of them to a medical examination.”

His office would also track down the traffickers bringing children from other States as cheap labour here.

Rehabilitation

“The children will be rehabilitated under the National Child Labour Project. We are looking for the children’s parents to counsel them and, if necessary, will even give them employment training,” Mr. Prakash said.

Criminal cases would be booked against the employers under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, he said.

More In: Bengaluru