Sunil worked at a Chennai bakery for 12 hours a day for an income so meager that it did not meet even his own expenses and innocent indulgences. He is just 14. Sixteen-year-old Renu worked as a domestic helper in a posh locality in Delhi, sacrificing her childhood.
Separated by hundreds of kilometers, these two children have nothing in common except that they cannot lend their real names to this report as they are legally not allowed to be engaged in such works, and are victims of child trafficking.
They were rescued last month by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan along with 1,621 other children. Renu narrated her story after being produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
She said she was given leftovers for meals, thrashed on several occasions, and was not provided wages. She has now been reunited with her parents in Chhattisgarh. An FIR has been registered against her employer and the trafficker who brought her to the national capital.
A total of 216 rescue operations were conducted last month across 16 states with 54 children being rescued each day, said Manish Sharma, Director of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. As many as 241 FIRs were registered last month and 222 accused -- both traffickers and employers -- were arrested for various offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, Child Labour Act, and the Bonded Labour Act.
The 16 states include Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, Assam, Gujarat, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, Sharma added. He said BBA activists realized that most of the children were trafficked from small villages with the false promise of a better lifestyle and decent wages. Poverty and economic hardship were primarily responsible for the children leaving education and being pushed into child labor, he said.
"To eke out a living and provide sustenance to their families, scores of children had accompanied the traffickers-either themselves or with the consent of their parents- to distant metropolitan and satellite cities," Sharma said. The story of 13-year-old Sonu, a resident of Bihar’s Sitamarhi who was rescued last month, had a similar story.
He was rescued from a welding shop in Sitamarhi. Sonu said his family comprised his parents and two elder sisters. Sonu’s father, a daily wage worker in Pune, was the sole breadwinner of the family. The family incurred huge debts after marrying Sonu’s two sisters and crumbled under the burden. Sonu was forced to drop out of school and work. After the rescue, the BBA activists facilitated his enrolment in Class 7 in his village school.
"To eliminate child labor completely, we need to strike at the root of the trafficking rackets-often operating with impunity and total disregard for the law. “To handcuff the hands that exploit childhood and extinguish the dreams of children, we need better implementation of law and concerted efforts of state agencies. We also urge the union government to pass the anti-trafficking bill in the upcoming session of the parliament,” he said.