“I was brought to Delhi by my mausi (aunt) who said she would admit me in a good school. But she sent me to work in a factory in Khajuri Khas in northeast Delhi instead. I was unaware of her intentions,” said10-year-old Abul (name changed), who hails from Bihar’s Araria district.
Along with Abul, there were 11 other children who were rescued from the same area on 23 December last year. These children were working in a factory that colours jeans. They were rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO that works to protect children from child labour.
Rakesh Singhal, director, victim assistance (BBA), told The Sunday Guardian: “The children rescued were mostly trafficked by their relatives. These children were trafficked into Delhi mostly from the eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. These children are brought under the pretext of giving them education or good jobs and then put to work in hazardous industries. Delhi is one of the biggest hubs of child labour. Children are forced into doing many odd jobs here, which includes working as domestic helps, and forced beggary, prostitution. Many are also engaged in spas.”
Kasim Mirza (name changed), a 14-year-old child who was brought to Delhi from Chaparia in Bihar by one of his relatives, was forced to work in a zari making factory in Delhi. He said to this correspondent, “I had come to Delhi in September last year. I was taken to a factory to work. We were about 10 people working and living in the same room, even without proper food. They did not pay us any money for all the time we worked there. When at times we used to fall sick they did not even call the doctor or give us any medicine. We were forced to work for more than 10 hours daily. I want to go back home and resume my studies. I will also tell my younger brother to study hard so that together we can make a good living.” According to the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, more than 1,000 children were rescued from Delhi in 2015. In 99% of the cases, they had been trafficked by their family members. “Most of the children who are brought to Delhi are from very poor backgrounds. The trafficker makes false promises to their parents and makes them send their kids. The parents are paid some nominal amount after which the child is brought here to be exploited,” Singhal said.
The government moved several amendments early last year in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 which has been pending before Parliament. The government in its amendments has prohibited employment of children below 14 years in all occupations, but made provisions for children to work in non-hazardous family enterprises after school hours or during vacations. The bill also adds a new category called “adolescents”, which means a person between 14 years and 18 years of age. The bill prohibits employment of “adolescents” in hazardous occupations.
The amendment to the bill has received criticism from several quarters. “The government has not defined ‘family’ in its bill. The word family is very big and it can be easily misused by others. It would become difficult for us to rescue any children if the government fails to define what ‘family’ is. Also the amendment reduces the hazardous domain to only three industries, namely, mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes. We have moved a proposal to change these two aspects of the bill and the government has agreed to consider our proposal,” Singhal said.