The Anaj Mandi Fire which took place last Sunday has again highlighted rampant illegal child labour in the national capital.
A petition filed before the High Court by NGO Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (BBA) said that "most child labourers working in these factories at Anaj Mandi and all over Delhi, especially in unauthorized colonies and where manufacturing units are illegally operating in residential areas, albeit under the noses of the State authorities, are overcrowded and lack windows."
Children are often made not only to work there but also sleep and eat there and their movement is severely restricted. These hubs of child labour are hotbeds of trafficking, as also illness, where children are kept like slaves, in addition to being open to disasters such as fire and other accidents as these structures are unauthorized and without fire clearances, the petition said.
Volunteers of the organisation after visiting the hospitals and speaking to the relatives of the victims found that there were a number of child labourers employed illegally in the factories in the building where the fire broke out.
They also found questionable persons at the hospital where the children are admitted, with special interest in the children rescued from the Anaj Mandi fire. The suspicion is that some of these persons could possibly be traffickers who had brought the children to Delhi for work from their native villages.
The Bachpan Bachao Aandolan has told the court that it has credible information that the children who have been admitted in the hospital are being tutored to say that they were only visiting the factory and did not work there. They are also being coerced to say that they are 19 years old -- above the age of minors.
According to the study released by BBA, an NGO under the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation, has rescued 8,918 children from different industrial units since 2005. Of this, 8,408 children were rescued from illegal factory units.
"Figures available with us reveal that the children rescued in Delhi belonged to various states and that they had been forced to migrate in search of livelihood. More than half of such children belonged to Bihar while more than one-fifth (22%) of them came from Uttar Pradesh," the study said.
Around 63 people were injured of which 43 died in the massive fire that broke out in the factory early on Sunday.
The police registered an FIR against the owners of the factory and some others under Section 304 (culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) following which two persons were arrested.
"The owner of the building, Rehan, has been arrested. The case is now transferred to the Crime Branch," said Anil Mittal, Additional PRO, Delhi Police.
On Monday, the two accused were produced before a Delhi court which sent them to 14-day police custody. The police, during the hearing, told the court that identification of most of the deceased persons is not possible, though post-mortem examination of the bodies has already begun.
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