35 child workers rescued from leather sweatshops in Delhi

February 10th, 2009 - 6:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) Next time you go shopping and are looking up fancy bags and shoes, remember these may be products of labour of hapless children - like the 35 rescued Tuesday from the capital’s leather factories.

Aged between seven to fourteen, these children were trafficked from their homes mostly in the Saharsa and Darbhanga districts of Bihar. They were found in leather sweatshops in west Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh area, stitching ladies purses and bags, and cobbling shoes.

Aseem (name changed), all of seven years of age and one of the 35 children rescued, looked pale and weak as he recounted his tale of horror. Like most others, he too had symptoms of tuberoculosis after having to work for more than 10 hours everyday with harmful chemicals.

“I feel very suffocated while working with the chemicals everyday. We use the chemicals to stick the leather pieces on the soles of the shoes,” he told his rescuers, members of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) which works for child rights, the police and officials of the labour department.

“If the work is not completed on time or is not satisfactory, then we are beaten up by our master,” he added.

The kids, who were rescued in four different raids, also said that they were not paid anything for their labour.

Although it has been decided that the children will be rehabilitated under the Bonded Labour (Systems) Act, Kailash Satyarthi of the BBA said this rescue is like a drop in the ocean.

“Scattered and tiny operations like these rescues are not a complete solution to stem the fast growing influx of poor and helpless children in the capital’s labour market,” Satyarthi said.

“Until and unless the administration takes the bold initiative to launch rigorous and widespread combing operations and takes punitive action against the agents, employers and accompaniments, this menace will continue,” he added.

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