Weak vigilance helps child labour thrive in B'lore

Weak vigilance helps child labour thrive in B'lore

City preferred destination for racketeers; rehab proves a challenge

Weak vigilance helps child labour thrive in B'lore

The City is steadily veering towards becoming a haven for child labour and trafficking.

Every day, at least 30 children arrive at the City Railway Station and in the Kempegowda Bus Station alone. The number of children migrating to the City per day is projected to cross a hundred, according to activists working for rescue of children in need of care and protection.

In the last three years, there has been an increase in the number of children below 18 years migrating to Bangalore, going by the experiences of Child Welfare Committee members and child rights activists here. Migration includes forced migration for employment and trafficking of children. Activists and officials said that they find many children from Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand states being brought to the City with the lure of employment. A number of children from Bangladesh and Nepal have also been rescued over the past few months.

“In the last three days, we have rescued around 30 children from one of the railway stations in the City,” said Basavaraju Sali, deputy secretary of Saathi, an NGO that has actively involved in rescuing children. According to him, the weekly trains from North Indian states that reach Yeshwantpur bring to the City a number of migrant children. Migrants from other South Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh, are usually found in the City Railway Station.

“We have started a programme called early intervention. We identify children at the bus station and the railway station and rescue them from there,” said Sali. There is an organised team of brokers in the City who ensure that the children do not land in big groups, raising suspicion.

They make sure that the children once brought are used for employment in one or the other firm that is part of their chain, said Fr Edward Thomas, member of KSCPCR. The increasing employment opportunities in the City have resulted in increased incentive for child labour, Thomas observed.

“The number of street children are decreasing. This is because there are brokers at all levels trying to broaden their benefits. They immediately take the children away, promising them employment. Hotels have a nexus too. Children are sent from one hotel to another and are forced into a vicious circle of labour,” he added. Bag making factories in the City, restaurants and industrial outlets are where the children are pushed into.

Travel permits are a major concern when it comes to rehabilitation of children from other countries.

“We may rescue a child here hailing from Bangladesh. To send him or her back home, that country's government should co-operate too. Government bodies should strengthen their co-ordination,” said Meena Jain, chairperson of Child Welfare Committee, Bangalore Urban.

In fact, rescuing children is just the first step. Ensuring that they are rehabilitated and that they are back in safe places is a challenging task for child rights activists and officials.

Children's shelter homes in the City are almost packed with rescued children, calling for the establishment of more such homes. To begin with, there have to be help desks in the railway stations and bus stands, opined Meena Jain and Fr Thomas. There is a need for multi-lingual banners in these places, giving helpline numbers for the benefit of children, in case they have been cheated by their employers.

“This is one way to ensure that children who have landed in the City, amidst crisis, can at least go back to their hometowns safe,” Fr Thomas said.