62 child workers rescued from slavery in Delhi (Lead)

June 12th, 2008 - 9:23 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) Police and child rights activists Wednesday stormed zari units here Wednesday and rescued 62 children who had been forced to work for over 14 hours every day against their will - and for no money in return. The dramatic raid from near slavery came on the eve of the World Day Against Child Labour.

The boys, mostly from poverty-stricken Motihari and Sitamarhi districts of Bihar, were freed from zari (brocade) units in Ghonda Chowk near Seelampur in east Delhi.

The Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), which has been campaigning for years against child slavery, organised the raid along with Delhi Police.

As they were led out of the dingy production units where they had worked for months, silently suffering physical assaults, some of the children narrated their plight.

Nazir, one of the rescued children, said he was brought from Bihar to Delhi by an “uncle” who promised his family that he would be educated and also earn money from part time work.

The reality was, however, ugly.

“I had to work for 16 hours daily without any break. At the slightest mistake or any complaint of tiredness, the master would beat me,” said the seven-year-old, signs of strains evident in his voice.

“As we had to sit continuously to do embroidery, my knees hurt so much that I can’t even stand,” he said. “I wanted a way out of this hell. I am happy now. I want to go home and study in a school.”

Seelampur sub-divisional magistrate A.K. Sharma, who led the raid, said: “Upon speaking to the children, we realised they worked from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and never got any wages for their work. This clearly means they were bonded labour.”

Sharma said the children would be given “release certificates” under the Bonded Labour Act. The certificate entitles them to a rehabilitation package of Rs.20,000.

The children can also avail government schemes like the Indira Awas Yojana on a priority. Most importantly, the children would be enrolled in the National Child Labour Project schools, he added.

BBA founder Kailash Satyarthi said: “The main reason for conducting the raid on the eve of the World Day Against Child Labour is to show that action is needed to end the menace. Seminars and programmes will not help.

“If police officials, labour officials and civil society work together and actively release children from exploitative situations, complete elimination of child labour is not only possible but also attainable in the near future,” Satyarthi said.

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