BENGALURU: The Railway Police and NGOs working for the welfare of children have reported a surge in the number of children being brought to Bengaluru to work as labourers in different factories. The reason: A good chunk of the labour force which left after the first Covid wave last year never returned and it is now being replaced by this young workforce.
With a number of inter-city, inter-state trains and buses being restored, many children are being brought to the City to be turned into labourers, said a top cop of the Railway Protection Force (RPF). “From January to March this year, 52 children who were being trafficked for labour were rescued from trains and platforms by Nanhe Farishtey, the anti-child trafficking unit of RPF. A new trend is that even girl children are being brought as additional hands to meet the labour demand. They were earlier trafficked mainly for flesh trade.”
Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Sonykutty George, told The New Indian Express, “In the last week alone, we rescued 25 children from the KSR Railway Station and Kempegowda bus station. They are now kept at a centre in Madiwala and placed under quarantine to ensure they are corona free.”
He said that an average of 90 to 100 children were being brought into the City every month. “When you consider the limited public transport available, this is a matter of much concern. It is only rising and is set to become dangerous,” he added. Most of them are rural children. “The closure of schools and their inability to study online coupled with financial pressure on parents is pushing many children into the workforce,” he said.
Data from Nanhe Farishtey, which has rescued 3,023 children across railway stations and trains over the last two years, reveals that 52 per cent of the children were brought from different parts of Karnataka. Among other top states from where child labourers reached the City were Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and North-Eastern states. “Some are being voluntarily sent by parents who have no clue about the hardships the children would endure, while some are being brought in by relatives or those specialising in trafficking,” the police officer explained.