Mumbai, Aug 13: In a major operation spread across Mumbai and Thane districts, the state police on Saturday rescued around 300 children employed as labourers in various industrial conclaves. The children, aged between five and 14, were freed by police teams at zari and embroidery factories, hotels and even some residential complexes. Around 250 children were rescued in Mumbai, while 74 children were rescued from Ulhasnagar.
Industrial conclaves in Govandi, Kurla, Dharavi and Malad, which had come under the police scanner, were combed out by the police. Around 38 children from the Meghwadi (Malad) area, 72 from Bainganwadi (Govandi), 31 from Shahunagar (Dharavi) and 71 from Patel Wadi (Kurla) were rescued. Thirty-two child labourers from Camp 1 and 42 children from Camp 5 in Ulhasnagar were rescued.
A police team, along with members of the NGO Pratham Mumbai Education Initiative, rescued 29 child labourers aged between seven and 14 from the Jari Mills of Muslim Nagar, Indra Nagar and Kewdi Chawl, all situated in the Dharavi area.
Among the 29 children rescued, the majority had come to the city either with their parents or had been brought by workers employed in mills. Seven-year-old Salim, working at the Jari Mill in Muslim Nagar for the past one year, had a sad tale to tell: “At the mill, they often harassed us. In exchange for food, they would singe me with cigarettes. I want to study but have no money. I don’t have parents either,” he said.
Amit, 13, who had been working at Kewdi chawl for several years, was happy. “They said we would be sent to a home where we would have other children to play with and get proper food. I didn’t like working, the people were not good,” he said.
At the Kurla police station, 69 bewildered children rescued from zari factories, hotels, garages and bakeries awaited their fate. The majority of them were Muslims, and it was evident they had been taught to lie about their age.
Musahid Aalam, who could be no more than six, said he was 12. When he came from Tarapur three years back with his brother, he thought it was sight-seeing. “I was told I would be in Mumbai for three days for sight-seeing. Three days have become three years,” he said. “I only know how to prepare tea. When I see children of my age going to school with new bags and uniforms, even I want to wear a school uniform.”
Not all the children want to study. Some are happy working. Said 15-year-old Tohseeb Mohammed, who works in a zari factory, “I am happy working here. This job ensures me shelter and something to eat. I don’t want to study, because I know I cannot afford it. If I have to study, I will have to leave my work, and I will have no money.”
“We work in the zari factory from nine to nine. I sometimes feel like making good zari designs and sending them to my mother for her to stitch it on her sari. She had only one torn sari when I came to this city. I am saving money to send her a new sari and with my zari designs put on it,” said 15-year-old Sahbai Aalam.
“The BMC, police, NGOs and college students helped us in the raids at Rafiq Nagar. We have registered a case under the Child Labour Act against owners of nine zari units at the Shivaji Nagar police station. The kids will be kept at a childrens home at Mankhurd. They will be sent to their native place soon.”
- Assistant Labour Commissioner T G Cholke
“We have arrested Mohammed Mulajeem Ansari, Mohammed Hyder Sheikh, Mohammed Rahimtullah Ansari, Bharat Barod, Mohammed Imran Sheikh, Budhai Sheikh, Mohd. Asgar Ali Sheikh, Mohammed Shabbir Sheikh and John Anthony Dias under Sections 374 IPC read with Sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Act and also read with Section 3 of Child Labour Practice Act. All the nine accused will be produced in court on Sunday.”
- Senior Police Inspector Shivaji Nimhan
“Zari unit owner Mohammed Rehman brought me to Mumbai when I was four.I spent Rs200 a month on food. I send Rs600 every month to my parents in Bihar.”
- Mohammed Khalid (14), Sitamadhi, Bihar
“I work at a tea stall in Govandi. I slog between 6am to 11pm. In return, I get two square meals and Rs1000 per month.”
- Raju Meena (10), Dungarpur, Rajasthan
I don't know when I landed in Mumbai. My parents, who are unemployed, handed me over to a zari unit owner, Mohammed Hyder Ismail Sheikh. I get lunch, dinner and tea for the work I do. My boss sends money to my parents every month, but I have no idea how much.”
- Mohammed Nasim (15), Basti, Uttar Pradesh