NEW DELHI - Working for 12-13 hours a day under inhuman conditions and being beaten at the slightest pretext - the nightmare for 52 bonded child labourers working in zari (embroidery) units here ended when they were rescued Monday.
From tiny zari units built on the sides of sewer pipes, the labour department and the police with the help of an NGO rescued the child labourers in the capital Monday.
Aged between eight and 14, the boys hailed mostly from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh. And they all had a similar story yo tell - brought to the city by an acquaintance who paid their parents a paltry sum and promised them a bright future for their children.
Firoz, the youngest of the lot rescued from the zari unit, was eight years old. Recounting his horror tale he said Monday: A year back, an acquaintance in my village gave Rs.700 to my father and said that I would be admitted in a madrassa, while helping around in some light work.
But when I reached Delhi, he forced me to work in a zari unit. I was made to work for 12-13 hours daily and still beaten up on the slightest pretext. I and the other boys were always locked up in the room so that we couldn’t go out and talk to anyone around about it, he said.
Kailash Satyarthi of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the NGO which led the rescue mission, said that they were shocked to see the children being kept in such inhuman conditions.
It was difficult to reach the zari units where the children were kept since they were built on the sides of the sewer pipes. We had to walk through puddles of sewage water to reach the rooms. There was no ventilation or light source - it was like a jail! Satyarthi said.
The children were working day and night in the scorching heat of 44 degrees Celsius in closed rooms with no fans. This is the condition of some 50,000 children working in the zari industry. The irony is that at least 35 children are trafficked to Delhi everyday as per the government reports, making Delhi the biggest hub of child trafficking. This multimillionaire illicit trade is not possible without connivance of the police and other authorities, he alleged.
The rescued children have been given release certificates under the Bonded Labour Act and a rehabilitation package of Rs.20,000 each.