New Delhi: His hair
neatly combed, T-shirt tucked into his trousers, Sunil, all of 12,
sits on a bench outside a children's home here and recounts the
horror tales of scores of boys like him employed to stitch bags
for a company with a 'no child labour' policy.
Sunil is one of the 25 child labourers who were recently rescued
by the police and the labour department from a unit in the Narela
Industrial Area in west Delhi after a tip-off by an NGO. Aged
between eight and 14, all of them hail from the Darbhanga and
Samastipur districts of Bihar.
The children are now staying at a children's home, Mukti Ashram,
run by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA).
Not yet out of the shock of seeing men in uniform raid the unit
and arrest their employer, the kids are now not sure whom to
trust. Some thought they too would be arrested for some unknown
"I did not want to come but the uncle (middleman) who brought me
here promised my parents that he will pay me Rs.500 for a month's
work," Sunil said as he hesitatingly started his story to IANS.
"We had to stitch bags from 9 a.m. to 12 midnight. On any given
day, I stitched 50-100 bags. But even after working for a month, I
got no money," he said.
Kohinoor Foods Limited, the company whose Basmati rice bags the
kids stitched, maintains that the company has a 'no child labour'
policy. A company official told IANS: "According to our Corporate
Social Responsibility practices, we don't employ minor labour and
observe fair trade practices."
"However, some of the work is sourced out to contractors," the
official added, hinting that the contractor may have employed
Rakesh Senger of BBA said: "The contractor must have employed the
children, but whatever be the case, this shows that children are
exploited in the supply chain. Companies should be more vigilant."
While most children did not receive their wages, the only money
they got was a paltry Rs.20 at the end of the week, which they
spent on tea and some snacks.
Most of the boys come from extremely poor Muslim families. With
their parents usually working as agriculture labourers or daily
wage earners, it was literally a hand-to-mouth situation for them.
Mohammad Nasim, a 13-year-old who was one of the 25 rescued child
labourers, recounts how he landed in Delhi from Bihar.
"I studied till Class 5 and then dropped out. My mother, who was a
daily wage worker, had to leave work because she suffered from
jaundice. Her treatment cost a lot of money and she couldn't even
cook," Nasim told IANS.
Abject poverty made Nasim's mother an easy prey to the lures of an
acquaintance who said he could take her son to Delhi where he
could earn up to Rs.1,000 a month.
"My mother didn't tell me much, just asked me to go with the uncle
and work hard. At that time, it seemed like a good opportunity.
Now I know that I was exploited. In Delhi, a daily wage earner
gets Rs.350 for working eight hours," he said, looking way older
than his age.
The boys also detailed the poor state of hygiene in the work
Mohammad Kamrun, 12, said 70 workers, which included both children
and older workers, stayed together in the same room.
"We slept, ate and worked in the same place. We didn't even get
time to bathe, so we used to bathe once a week," he said.
"At times, some boys also got injured by the needles. Then, the
employer gave them some medicine and asked them not to work for a
day," Kamrun added.
Shrewd that they were, the employers however made simple
arrangements - like a CD player for some music - to give the boys
the illusion of entertainment.
"The employers know that if the boys get bored or feel exploited,
they will attempt to run away. So, like in this case, they kept a
CD player for some entertainment," Senger said.
The boys are eagerly looking forward to going back home and
starting life afresh.
"When we reach home, we will be given a certificate (release
certificate under the Bonded Labour Act) and will get Rs.20,000. I
want to go back to school...and if my parents ask me to work, I
will tell them that I will work only after I have grown up and
become an accountant," Nasim smiled.
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