Around 137 children of age group between 10 and 16 years brought from Rajasthan and other states for household and factory work were rescued from a housing society in Surat early on Sunday.
Officials said multiple agencies conducted a raid around 5.30 am at three building blocks in Sitaram Nagar Society in Pankaj Nagar of Surat from where the children, all boys, were rescued. They also detained around 30 people on charges of human trafficking and were being questioned, officials said. They children were involved in work, in violation of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, which prohibits child labour.
According to police, the detained accused were living with the children in the housing society. Out of the 137 children, 128 are from Rajasthan while others are from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.
The raid was conducted by Gujarat CID Crime (Women Cell), Gujarat Police, Rajasthan Police, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan’s New Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat units, as well as officials of child rights commissions from Gujarat and Rajasthan.
“We received information regarding the presence of children in a housing society in Surat and a raid was conducted jointly with other agencies. Parents of most of the children were aware that their kids are being sent to Gujarat to work, due to unemployment and acute poverty in their surroundings. However, employing a child below the age of 14 in any work and below the age of 18 in a serious, hazardous condition is illegal according to JJ Act,” said Anil Pratham, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) CID Crime (Women Cell).
According to officials present during the raid, the kids were allegedly sold in Rajasthan and then brought to Surat in different groups. “Out of the 30 accused, each was handling a group of 4-5 children and they used to stay in rented apartments of the housing society. A few days ago, Bachpan Bachao Andolan of Rajasthan had done a recce of the place and then shared the information with its Gujarat counterpart. After that Delhi unit of Bachpan Bachao Andolan and CID Crime was also brought in and a decision was taken to conduct a raid on Sunday. We are interrogating the accused go find out about their network,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
“They were kept in inhuman conditions and were made to work in the textile sector, hotels and as domestic workers. Most of the children are from tribal areas of Rajasthan and were trafficked to Surat to provide cheap labour,” said Shailendra Pandya, member of the Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. He said further action would include counselling of children to help them overcome the distress of being child labourers, and lodging of a case in Rajasthan.