New Delhi: Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan has consistently ensured the safety of children during the pandemic and rescued scores of children forced into child labour. As part of its continuous and protracted struggle to eliminate child labour from the country, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) initiated a special drive along with partners and law enforcement agencies. BBA then accomplished a historic feat with an unprecedented number of rescues in the month of June.
With an average of 54 rescues each day, a total of 1,623 child labourers were rescued across 16 states in the country. 216 Rescue operations were conducted across 16 states and 241 FIRs were registered. 222 accused–both traffickers and employers– were arrested for various offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, child labour act and bonded labour act. During the rescue operations, BBA activists came across scores of poignant and traumatic stories. Poverty, deprivation, exploitation and abuse remained a common theme across the majority of rescue operations.
Founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi in 1980, BBA liberates and rehabilitates child victims of trafficking, slavery and forced labour. BBA has rescued more than 1 Lakh children since its inception. To ensure speedy access to justice, it also provides legal aid and representation.
During the last 30 days, BBA conducted these rescue operations across 16 states, including the national capital, the Northern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana along with the North Eastern state of Assam, the Eastern state of Gujarat and the Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Several facts emerged during the rescue operations. BBA activists realised 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 labour. 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.
The rescued children included 16-year-old Renu (name change), working as domestic help in a posh locality in Delhi. After being produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Renu narrated her story of being tortured. She was given leftovers for meals, thrashed on several occasions and not provided wages. At present, she has been reunited with her parents in Chattisgarh. FIR has been registered against her employer and the trafficker who brought her to the national capital. BBA is following up on the case with the concerned officials to provide her back wages and link her family with state-sponsored schemes.
BBA activists also rescued Sunil (name changed), 16, from a bakery. Sunil was merely 10 years old when his alcoholic father passed away. He then dropped out of school and accompanied his mother from a village in Tamil Nadu to Chennai. To earn his daily bread, Sunil started working in a bakery. Sunil was paid meagre wages and forced to work for over 12 hours daily. After the rescue, BBA is now facilitating Sunil’s enrolment in a vocational training institute. The activists are helping the mother-son duo get linked with the relevant social security schemes of the government.
Similar is the story of 13-year-old Sonu, a resident of Sitamarhi, Bihar. He was rescued from a welding shop in Sitamarhi. Sharing his story after the rescue, Sonu said his family comprised of his parents and two elder sisters. Sonu’s father, a daily wage worker in Pune, was the sole breadwinner of the family. Because of the marriage ceremonies of both his sisters, the father incurred huge debts. The burden of repaying these loans was so high that 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.
The focus is to rescue children who are forced to work, besides ensuring their educational rehabilitation, said Manish Sharma, Director of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. “What we have accomplished recently is a massive withdrawal of children forced into labour. To eliminate child labour 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.