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Factory raids highlight India's illegal child labour

Dozens of migrant children were found illegally working in New Delhi despite child protection laws.

File photo of Indian 'rag picker children' who scour car yards for recyclable parts.
File photo of Indian 'rag picker children' who scour car yards for recyclable parts.
Image: Channi Anand/AP/PA Images

POLICE RAIDS ON factories in the Indian capital have revealed dozens of migrant children hard at work today despite laws against child labour.

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 Child.

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.

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.

India recently passed a law aimed at fighting child labour by making education compulsory up to age 14. But grinding 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. Sometimes, 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 today’s raids, five men were arrested on charges of employing the children.

The kids, some of them crying at being taken, 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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Associated Press

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