By Muskan Singh: Children emerge as the biggest victim of the pandemic, Bachpan Bachao Andolan rescues 1,600 kids from exploitation.
According to Kailash Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), over 1,600 children were rescued from “situations of exploitation” in the last 8 months this year. The NGO noted there has been a rise in such cases since several people lost their livelihoods, owing to the nationwide lockdown put in place to combat rising coronavirus cases.
The central government put in a nationwide lockdown from March 25. However, from June 8, the Centre gradually started easing restrictions under the ‘unlock’.
“One of the biggest worries during the lockdown was the fact that the financial crisis of families will lead them to take loans unethically. This eventually increased the vulnerability of children and their families of being lured by traffickers with the promise of a better livelihood opportunity,” Dhananjay Tingal, an executive director at BBA, said.
Between April and November, a 13-year-old child named Krishna (name changed), who was among1,600 exploited children, was rescued.
BBA officials said, that Krishna was picked up from his village in Bihar and employed in a garment factory in Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat where he used to work for 12 hours a day and stayed in a small room with six other children. They were promised payment, but the children did not receive any money. Besides this, he and the others got to rest for just half a day in one week and a lot of pressure was put on them to fulfil the production targets.
Krishna’s parents had lost their source of earning in this lockdown along with a loan of Rs 20,000 they took to build the roof of their house. Krishna was taken to the garment factory in Gandhinagar on the pretext of returning his loan money and helping his parents. For months he endured exploitation at the hands of his employer, before being rescued by the BBA in July.
Not only Krishna, but stories of various other children is almost the same as well. One of them is 14-years-old Saad Khan. There are three people in Saad’s family who make money and feed their families, but this lockdown forced Saad to go out to find a job and take care of his family. He and his family were lured by a trafficker, who gave them an advance of Rs 5,000 and promised work for Khan. “The advance payment by any trafficker further complicates the issue as it becomes a case of bonded labour,” BBA officials said.
Saad was rescued in September with 15 more children when he was going to work in a Bangle making factory in Jaipur, Rajasthan. He was rescued by BBA with the help of anti-human trafficking and the local police unit. An NGO reported that between April and November, around 107 traffickers were arrested.
During August and September 2020, 80 vehicles, including 51 buses and 29 trains were intercepted based on information received from field activists, exclusively deployed to report suspected cases of child trafficking,” Tingal said, terming children as the biggest victim of the pandemic.
“There is a dire need of being more vigilant and active in mapping children and families, who are especially at risk and try to stop trafficking at the source. The immediate measure that we have at hand to prevent this is to rehabilitate rescued bonded labourers, especially by ensuring that they are financially compensated and do not fall back into the cycle of exploitation,” he said.
Dhananjay Tingal said that the Jaipur’s Bangle Making Unit was under the scanner for a long time because there were many children employees. Children are employed primarily for two reasons – first due to cheap labour cost and secondly, due to their small hands which helps in efficiently fitting embellishments on bangles.
The advent of the pandemic has seriously damaged the work done in the past two decades by child rights organisations in terms of decreasing child labour. BBA has been adapting to the challenges posed by the pandemic in dealing with the steep rise in trafficking,” he added.