Thirty-two child labourers, working at a steel factory in Wazirpur Industrial area, were rescued following a 10-hour operation by a district task force team, comprising the local SDM, labour department officials, NGO workers and a team from Ashok Vihar police station.
The children, who are reportedly between 13 and 17 years old, had been working at the steel factory for the past three months. Some of them had, however, joined two weeks ago. While a majority of the rescued children are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, three are reportedly from Nepal. Police said they are on the lookout for the owner of the steel factory, who has been absconding since the raid. The children, meanwhile, have been shifted to the Phulwari Children’s Home for Boys at Alipur.
SDM Saraswati Vihar, Dr Vivek Kumar, said he had conducted a recce of the factory days before the raid. After coordinating with local police, a task force was constituted. Two workers from NGO Prayas and two labour inspectors also took part in the raid, he added.
When the team entered the premises around 9.30 am, they found the children working in the utensil polishing corridor in the factory. Many of them were covered in black soot from head to toe, which made it difficult for police to identify them.
“Their bodies were covered in charcoal soot. In such cases, children usually develop breathing-related complications,” said Naved, a rescue worker from Prayas.
The children had been underpaid and overworked, claimed labour department officials. “Once we trace the owner of the factory, we will make sure that the basic wages are recovered from him,” said Satvir Singh, a labour inspector, who took part in the raid.
Officials told The Indian Express that while the younger children used to get Rs 3,500 per month, the elder children got Rs 5,000.