It is a tragic irony that India, the largest democratic country in the world, bears the scourge of having 65 million bonded child Labourers and 300 million adult Labourers, living a life of bondage and contemporary forms of slavery. Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) is one of the first organizations that started working on this issue. BLLF under the stewardship of Swami Agnivesh has covered a number of milestones since its inception in 1981, working on a goal of liberation of bonded labour, including child labour and their subsequent rehabilitation. Administrative and political will to carry out the Constitutional mandate and enforce prohibitive laws of the land failed to produce any results. Against all odds, the Bonded Labour Liberation Front has achieved the release of over 1,73,000 bonded labourers among them 26000 were bonded child labour from the shackles of slavery. A large number of them have been rehabilitated. From the Carpet Industry alone, about a thousand children have been rescued and restored to their parents. Their rehabilitation has been monitored effectively. BMM has started a campaign for the provision of formal and full time education for these children, along with the supply of nutritious food to each one of them. BMM has also been raising the issue of food security to these poor families.
In Continuation of our previous efforts, BLLF has campaigned against social evils like Bonded labour, Dowry, Female Feticides, Alcoholism, Violence against women, Gender Injustice etc and also intervened in the area of Rescue and Rehabilitation of Bonded laborers, their Livelihood, Capacity building and Education. Among all these, this year elimination of Child bonded labour is on priority agenda of the organisation.
The organisation is concentrating in National Capital of India- New Delhi. The system Child Bonded Labour is being practiced on large scale in New Delhi. Thousands and Thousands of Children's are brought from different parts of country and engaged in different hazardous and non- hazardous industries in unhygienic condition for unlimited period of time in less than nominal wages. BLLF has started its campaign against this in Delhi and in this context the organisation conducted first raid of this year on 6th of Jan 2006 at East of Kailash, Garhi ( Mamraj & Shera Mohalla ) and rescued 55 Child Bonded Labour from Embroidery Factory with the assistance of SDM Smt. Sonika Singh, Defense Colony, South Delhi and SHO- East of Kailash, New Delhi. The rehabilitation of all these 55 bonded children's is going on at their respective place of origin by the respective district administration. Under rehabilitation package, each child are enrolled in formal school and scholarship of Rs. 100/ month to each children has been sanctioned, Rs. 20,000 is allotted to their parents to take up some livelihood. Also, those who don't had House and land were sanctioned a house under 'Indira Awas Yojana' and land under different scheme of respective state. The Organisation is monitoring very closely the rehabilitation process of these children and mounting pressure on the district administrations whose progresses are slow, to sped up the process of rehabilitation.
Organisation Recent Assault on the system of Child Bonded Labour (Rescue Operation; Dated 29th May 2006.)
In continuation of our raid of 6th Jan 2006, BLLF under leadership of Swami Agnivesh and administrative support of SDM Smt. Sonika Singh, Defense Colony, South Delhi and SHO- Sarai Kale Khan, conducted its second raid on 29th May 2006 at Sarai Kale Khan and rescued 77 Bonded Child Labourers from Embroidery Factory.
The raid was done successfully on the premises identified well in advance. The activist of BLLF identified the premises where such activities were carried on. A close watch was kept on the premises since last three month and when it was found that the children's were leading the life of bonded than plan for the raid was chalked out. SDM - South Delhi was informed about the precarious situation of children's and the SDM office gave its assurance to take appropriate action. 29th May was fixed for the conducting the raid on the identified premises.
Requisite arrangements for conducting raid such as arrangement of transportation for carrying children's from the premises to police station and than to transit station- Agnilok Ashram, Behlappa, Cloths, Sleeper, Boarding and lodging arrangements, Curing ailments, entertainment etc was done well in advance by the organisation. On 29th May, activist of BLLF, SDM -South Delhi Smt Sonika Singh and her team assembled at Police Station Sarai kale khan at 11 AM. Final Coordination meeting was done between Swami Agnivesh, SDM- South Delhi and SHO Sarai Kale Khan. And at 12: 30 Noon, all marched towards the premises. The identified building was raided. Police unlocked the rooms where children's were kept bonded and they were taken into safe custody. The owner of the embroidery factory was not found there. Like wise, raid was conducted into three premises and 77 bonded children were recovered.
Working & Living Condition of Children in Embroidery Factory
The Children working in the embroidery factory were found in precarious conditions. The Contractor used to take work from them for more than 12 hours (from 8. AM to 1 AM) and during Muslim festive period (Ramjan) due to more work pressure Children have to work for more than 18 hours i.e. from 10 AM to 4 AM (Next Morning) and in return they used to get wages between Rs. 10 to Rs. 50 per week. The Children's were beaten if they won't work or if there is any fault in their work. They were not given proper time to sleep and in the morning time if any one does not wakeup in time than they were given electric Shock in ears and beaten badly. In One room 15- 20 Children were accommodated for sleeping. The working condition too was horrible. They work in small-unventilated rooms and not allowed to play and go out side. Also, were not allowed to meet with out side persons. Most of them have developed weak eyesight in this early age due to poor light condition.
General Profile of Rescued Children's
The rescued children were from the age group of 8-14 years and belong to the state of Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Contractor used to bring them to work in their units in lieu of providing them skill related to embroidery and some money. Majority of rescued children (around 95%) were Muslims. 73 of them were from the state of Bihar and among them 65 were from Katihar District. Rest 4 children belong to West Bengal (One), Uttarpradesh (One) and Jharkhand (Two). The economic conditions of all children were poor and they came to Delhi in a hope to supplement income of their parents back home. The health conditions of most of the children were not good. Almost all were anemic and of poor health status. Their eyesight's were weak due to insufficient light at their work site and prolongs working hours.
Proceedings at Sarai-kale khan Police Station and post rescue action
All 77 rescued children were taken to nearest police station- Sarai kale khan and list of rescued children's were made. The Tehsildar took the statement of 10 children's in detail. After taking statement of children's and preparing the list FIR was written. A case under Bonded Labour Abolition Act 1976 was registered. All this proceedings took around 3-4 hour and in between children's were given snacks and fruits.
When Children were brought to police station, they were very much frightened. They were ignorant of their fault for which they were brought there. Activists of the organisation mingled with them and made them feel easy. They were made to understand that they were brought for their well being and not to worry. Swami Agnivesh himself sat with them and listen their worries and past miseries through which they all had passed through. Swamiji told them that soon they all will be send back to their home and enrolled in formal school and said government will take all such measures which will help them not to migrate any where else to earn their living. After completion of formalities and legalities the children were send to Agnilok Ashram. On 9th June 2006, they were given release certificate by SDM - South Delhi and till than they were kept in Agnilok Ashram, Behlappa, Haryana. The 12-days of their stay at Agnilok Ashram, they were provided with all such facilities (food, water, cloths, health treatment, entertainment, games, play etc) and congenial & playful environment that for the time being they forget their bad memories and fully took pleasure of their children hood. And finally on June 12, 2006 with the assistance of Resident Commissioner of respective states, they were sent back to their respective places to reunite with their parents under escort of police personnel and activist of BLLF. The Front is taking no stone unturned to secure their proper rehabilitation back at their native places.
Recently the Front Activist visited in some districts of Bihar State, where rescued children were sent in the month of January from Garhi, New Delhi and found that they were being properly rehabilitated by concern District Magistrates. Each rescued children are attending formal government school. The rehabilitation package Rs. 20000 (twenty thousand rupees only) has been debited to their parents account. The particular money being used for taking up some micro livelihood purpose. Likewise, the Front is following up the rehabilitation process in other states where the rescued children were sent.