33 child workers rescued from houses and hotels

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FREE AT LAST: Child workers Santosh Kumar and Babu, who were rescued from a Bangalore hotel by `Makkala Sahaya Vani' on Tuesday Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash
FREE AT LAST: Child workers Santosh Kumar and Babu, who were rescued from a Bangalore hotel by `Makkala Sahaya Vani' on Tuesday Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Raghava M.

Child helpline receives more than 100 calls

BANGALORE: "We have been abused both physically and sexually. We were made to live in a crammed room," said Santosh Kumar. He and his friend Babu, both aged 10 years, cleaned vessels at a hotel on Bhagawan Mahaveer (Infantry) Road. They were among the 33 children rescued in the city on the first day of the nation-wide ban on child labour in houses and restaurants. Kumar is an orphan, and Babu, the abandoned son of a small-time vegetable seller.

Three agencies, namely Makkala Sahayavani in Police Commissioner's Office, Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA) and Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO) participated in the rescue operations. They received around 100 calls from the public informing them of children working in residences and restaurants. The calls were made to the child helpline (Ph: 1098).

Police help was sought to rescue the children.

Makkala Sahayavani, which addressed calls from the Central and northern areas of the city, rescued four children aged between 10 and 14 years.

It rescued Prabhu (12), who works in a hotel in Indiranagar. It also rescued a seven-year-old boy working as a servant in a house at Laxmipura.

All the rescued children have been taken to Government-run rehabilitation centres. On Thursday, they will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a quasi-judicial authority set up by the Department of Women and Child Welfare. APSA, which handles calls from Indiranagar, HAL and parts of south Bangalore, received 40 calls. It rescued five children working as domestic help, including a young boy from Bihar.

The boy was found in a house in Gitanjali Apartment in HAL 3rd Stage. "His employer did not allow our people to talk with the boy in her husband's absence. But she later came to our office with her daughter and gave an undertaking that the boy would be produced before the CWC," Sheela of APSA said.

BOSCO, which attends to calls from areas around Majestic and some parts south Bangalore, received 350 calls. It rescued 15 children, a majority of them working in hotels. The BOSCO team found some children locked in toilets.

"When the hotel employers saw us entering their premises they made some of the children escape from us," Fr. Edward, Executive Director of BOSCO, said. The rescued children will be staying in four of its rehabilitation centres, he added.

Many of the calls made to the agencies were by citizens who wanted information about the ban and the facilities provided in the rehabilitation centres.

Some of the calls were made to attend to children and women on the streets who were in need of medical help. What lies ahead for these rescued children is unclear.

Many of them are happy to move to rehabilitation centres. "I am relieved to be rescued. I want to be able to study," said Santosh Kumar wistfully.

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