Most aged between 5 and 15; one little girl, from Bihar, was just four
Ten-year-old Sunil Kumar (name changed) should have been in school and leading a carefree life like other children his age. Instead he helps his “seth” in making gunny bags by cutting thread and other materials in a small room behind K.R Market. Sunil says he has been helping his “seth” ever since he was brought to the city two months ago from his hometown in Nepal. “I was brought in a bus from Chainpura to Patna and after that we came here. I work from morning and until midnight sometimes. I get to speak once a week to my parents who are also manual labourers in Nepal,” he says.
He seems to be unperturbed by the fact that he has been working as a child labourer. He was promised Rs. 2,500 per month, of which Rs. 1,000 would be cut for his food.
Sunil is one of 50 such child labourers rescued in Jolli Mohalla behind K.R Market after a two-hour raid in the area on Tuesday afternoon. As members of the rescue team explained, the process of the operation, four-year-old Asha (name changed), a native of Bihar and the only girl child among the 50, generously offered to share her coffee with this reporter.
The rescue team comprised officials of Department of Labour, Revenue Department, Women and Child Welfare Department and Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a voluntary organisation working for child welfare under the supervision of Bangalore District (Urban) Deputy Commissioner G.C. Prakash.
Mr. Prakash said that most of the children were aged between 5 and 15 years and hailed from Bihar, Orissa, Assam and Punjab. Many were put to work from morning till midnight or even later, making of gunny bags and incense sticks. “The children willingly came with us when we introduced ourselves to them. We expected to rescue more but some ran away and escaped. The owners too were missing and when we went to their family members refused to say where they were.”
Bachpan Bachao Andolan member Rizwan Ali said the team found at least 10 children housed in small rooms. “They are promised money but it never reaches their hands.” The children will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee and shifted to short stay homes or welfare homes, he said.
Another team member, Fancy Anita, said they have sought the help of the police to track down the owners of these small enterprises using child labour. They will be booked under Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act and even for trafficking as many of these children are migrants.