Sitting in a corner of a room, fourteen-year-old Pankaj Kumar (name changed) from Motihari district in Bihar was the quietest of the lot. Amidst the counselling and health check-up sessions, while most children were “promising” officials that they would study after returning home, Pankaj said, “Let me just go home please. It is my sister’s wedding next month.”
He, along with his two brothers, came to the city three months ago to earn for their 18-year-old sister’s wedding. “I have three sisters and two of them are married. Our parents sent us to this city to earn money for my third sister’s wedding. They had even promised us that we would be free after our sister got married. But now, all of us are stuck here.”
The trio were among the 68 children — 51 from Bihar and 17 from Nepal — rescued by the Central Crime Branch and Labour Department officials from five bag manufacturing units in Devara Jeevana Halli on Monday, incidentally ahead of the Anti-Child Labour Day that’s observed on Wednesday.
The three brothers were to leave the city on Wednesday. So much so, that they had even decided the colour of the saree that they would buy for their sister. But now, as they go through rigorous formalities after their rescue, they may not be able to make it in time for the wedding.
Meanwhile, other children currently lodged at the Government Boy’s Home on Hosur Road seemed visibly excited about their new haircut, new hostel and even their new toothbrush. It was a pleasant change after the cramped and dingy rooms where they soiled their hands for meagre money they earned daily.
Another boy, also from Motihari district, says, “I am sure I will have to go back and work again.” Working in poorly ventilated rooms for eight to ten hours a day, the children received wages ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 3,000 a month. Rajendra Prasad, Superintendent of the Government Boy’s Home, said the government would get in touch with the Social Welfare Department to send the boys back to their families.