June 13, 2012 in Business

Child labor persists in India despite laws

Charity says 1,300 kids were rescued in 2011
Katy Daigle Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Indian child laborers wait to be taken away after being rescued during a raid by workers from Save the Childhood Movement at a garment factory in New Delhi on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

Big issue

In New Delhi alone, about 50,000 children are believed to be working in factories, with thousands more begging on the streets and sorting garbage.

NEW DELHI – Police raids on factories in the Indian capital revealed dozens of migrant kids hard at work Tuesday despite laws against child labor. Tuesday was World Day Against Child Labor.

Police rounded up 26 children from three textiles factories and a metal processing plant, but dozens more are believed to have escaped. Those captured had all come to New Delhi from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

“Some of them were working in acid and metal,” with the task of breaking down metals and mixing alloys, said Kailash Satyarthi of India’s charity Save the Childhood Movement.

Some were embroidering women’s clothing including saris and had been coached to deflect questions from authorities about their work.

“I have just come from my village. I have come here to study,” said 11-year-old Samshad, explaining that he was choosing to work during a “holiday.” His 10-year-old colleague Samthu, however, admitted he did intricate needlework for the plant.

There are at least hundreds of thousands of children toiling in hidden and hazardous corners of India, including brick kilns, pesticide-laden fields or chemical factories.

India recently passed a law aimed at fighting child labor by making education compulsory up to age 14. But poverty still leads many kids to work, and certain industries that involve intricate machinery or delicate handiwork prefer their smaller hands.

Sometimes the factories promise the children only food and a place to sleep. Other times they pay for the children’s work in advance to their parents when the kids are taken for work – a situation that Satyarthi said essentially amounts to child slavery.

The charity said it rescued 1,300 children last year from work in Delhi factories.

During Tuesday’s raids, five men were arrested on charges of employing the children.

The kids, some of them crying at being taken from their jobs, were registered at an officials’ office in Seelampur slum district of east Delhi before going to a state welfare home for children.

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