PATNA: A total of 176 child labourers, rescued from various handicraft units in Jaipur, were brought to the state capital Thursday by a team of Bihar government officials and members of civil society organisations.
The child labourers, aged between seven and 16 years, were rescued last week by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of Rajasthan Police and Jaipur District Child Protection Unit Task Force.
A sense of relief prevailed among the officials of Bihar Labour Resources Department and Social Welfare Department as the Barmer-Bikaner-Guwahati Express chugged into Patna Junction carrying the kids.
"This is an occasion of happiness that these children will be united with their families. The sad aspect of the problem is that out of poverty and negligence, parents themselves handover their children to others for work. We need to stop this," Bihar Labour Resources Minister Dulal Chandra Goswami said.
He said the state government was formulating rehabilitation packages for the rescued children and called for a holistic solution of the problem. He also said five more children rescued in Maharashtra would be brought back in a couple of days.
The 176 children brought back today were employed in bangle industry, stone polishing and embroidery work in Jaipur. Child labourers are preferred in such industries because their nimble finger are more suitable for fine work, and they have to be paid much less.
A majority of the rescued children were malnourished and had burns and cuts on their hands and fingers. "These children were kept in inhuman condition. They spent working 15 hours a day, were confined to a room and were fed two meals a day. As far as remuneration is concerned, they were given just Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per month," said Suresh Kumar, state coordinator of Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Prayas, who had accompanied the children back home.
Suresh said the rescued children belong to 12 district of Bihar. Of 176, 87 were from Gaya and 41 from Samastipur while rest from other districts of the state. Most of them belong to the Mahadalit and Muslim communities, and were taken to Jaipur by labour contractors.
"The Rajasthan Police has identified two such contractors - Mohammad Irshad of Vaishali and Mohammad Pappy of Gaya district. They have been named in the FIR," added Suresh.
Samastipur District Child Protection Unit Assistant Director Rakesh Kumar said the Social Welfare Department is now arranging transport facilities to send the children to their homes.
"Residential addresses of a few of the children are yet to be traced, while parents of a few others are working in Delhi and other places. It will take some effort and time to unite them with their families," added Rakesh.
According to Labour Resources department officials several thousand children are trafficked every year from Bihar and forcibly employed in industries in different states across India.