Dressed in a pink frock, a nine-year-old girl presented a pink rose to the owner of a mill, manufacturing leather bags in Dharavi, on Wednesday morning. “Bachho ko kaam pe mat rakho, uncle… Unko ko padhao or behtar banao (Don’t make children work, help them get education to improve their lives),” she said.
Like her, 35 children are part of an initiative to curb child labour, started by the Mumbai Police along with the Labour Commission and two NGOs. Launched on Children’s Day, the six-day campaign aims to convey a message among factory and hotel owners to stop employing children. The children will offer roses to these owners of commercial establishments to sensitise them.
Walking through serpentine lanes of Dharavi, with smiles on their face, the children carried out the drive.
“Every person who gets a flower will remember and discuss the issue with other factory owners, thereby making our awareness campaign successful. We have raided many manufacturing units, hotels and arrested several employers in the past. But the same employer had come out on bail and continued to employ child labourers again. So, through such drives we are trying to convey the message,” said an officer.
“We have started the programme from Dharavi. Then we will conduct rallies at Nirmal Nagar (Bandra East), Shivaji Nagar, Nagpada, Saki Naka and Nehru Nagar (Kurla East). We have chosen these areas because majority of the small-time industries are located here and statistics have proven the existence of child labour in these localities,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ramchandra Mane, from Special Juvenile Police Unit.
The police said the campaign would end with a small programme at a nearby hall, where the police along with the representatives from the Labour Commission and an NGO would educate these mill and hotel owners about child labour laws.
Till November this year, Mumbai Police rescued 304 victims of child labour, following which 147 cases were registered and 183 employers arrested. In 2017, 700 children were rescued, for which 501 cases were registered and 486 arrests made. In 2016, 652 children were rescued by the Mumbai Police, and 458 cases were registered and 535 employers arrested.
Mane said: “Child trafficking is one of the main issues that this country is facing. There are many people involved from agents to children’s parents, who send them to the city to earn money, and lastly, the factory owners.”
On the other hand, Mumbai Police issued a data, which said 2,642 children were admitted to children homes till November 11 across the city as compared to last year’s, 2,525 children.