40 child labourers freed from bars, hotels in Gandhinagar area in the city
Rescued from the various bars, restaurants and lodges in the Gandhinagar area, the line of children in the age group 14 to 16 sat on the floor of the Balakara Balamandira on Wednesday afternoon.
“Forty children were taken into custody after raids on about 10 establishments. One of them was a 13-year-old girl. Twenty-eight were from Karnataka including one from Bangalore district. Among the remaining, five were from Bihar, five from Tamil Nadu and one each from Assam and West Bengal. Most of these children were brought to work by their relatives. The children were promised around Rs. 3,000 a month,” said a member of the rescue team. “Most of them are poor and came to work for the money.”
The raid was conducted by the Special Juvenile Police Unit (West Division) along with the Upparpet police and the NGO, BOSCO.
Two infants too
BOSCO executive director Fr. P.S. George said more than 25 in the group were below 15. “Apart from these children, there were two women who were using two infant girls as beggars. One of the girls is one-year-old and the other is two years,” he added. One of the women was their mother and the other appeared to be the grandmother.
Fr. George said the children worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and were made to clean floors and wash tiles. Some served liquor, he said, adding that they also suspect two of the children were involved in substance abuse. Many people related to the children arrived at the Balamandira asking to talk to them. One of them, a worker at one of the hotels, claimed: “Both my boys are not underage. I don’t know what happened. We got a call saying they had been taken from the hotel. I wasn’t there at the time so I am waiting to talk to the authorities.”
However, the rescue team said that a doctor who had conducted a health check on the children said most of the children were below 18.
Jennifer Y., Child Helpline coordinator and rescue team member, said as per procedure, parents of all the children are contacted first before they are handed over to anyone else. Even if they are 18 or above, their family will be intimated. “According to a field survey, more than 60 children are working as labourers in that area. But we were able to rescue only 40. We believe the remaining children escaped before the raid.”
Upparpet police, who were part of the rescue operation, said they have booked cases against the owners of these establishments under Sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act and Section 374 of the IPC. SJPU Coordinator Basavraju said that they would be booked under Section 3 of the Child Labour Act.