HYDERABAD: The outbreak of Covid has not only affected the education of children, but also pushed several of them into manual labour. Majority of children rescued by police officials from various places across the State, as a part of the Department’s Operation Muskaan, say that they were forced into labour and/or begging after their support systems collapsed owing to the pandemic. Worse, some of them even had to dropout of school and join their farmer parents in agricultural works to support their families that were struggling to earn their daily bread. Official statistics further prove that thousands of children are currently deprived of education, after the income sources of their families were severely hit.
The Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of Telangana police, as part of its Operation Muskaan, rescued more than 2,500 children from child labour in July 2021 alone. As many as 513 persons were arrested for employing these kids. According to officials, most such cases were reported in the tri-city commissionerates of Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda, where children were forced into bonded labour. While a good number of them had been working for the same employer for years, the remaining rescued kids also include beggars and the abandoned.
Meanwhile, Khammam, Warangal, Gadwal and several rural districts in the State have also been witnessing a spike in the number of such cases.“The ongoing session of Operation Muskaan that began on July 1, 2021, has so far been very helpful in rescuing kids. We were able to rescue children, register cases and arrest accused persons from all districts in the State, thanks to the concerted efforts involving all stakeholders,” B Sumathi, DIG, Women Safety Wing of Telangana, says.
Meanwhile, the officials point out that during the operation, they noticed several farm labourers and hotel owners making their kids work by their side. “Some have even abandoned their children for begging,” they share and add that under the guise of helping the families, children are exploited and forced into labour by depriving them of their education.