Three hundred and forty Indian children were rescued from slavery in workshops in north and south Hyderabad in the last week. Indian police found the children huddled in dreary, grimy, windowless rooms providing no air flow and susceptible to the noxious gases in the air. Authorities have been carrying out raids on workshops suspected of harboring child slaves as part of an effort to crush the human trafficking network that perpetuates the oppression of vulnerable families and children.
The youngest of the rescued Indian children were six years old. After trafficking gangs falsely lured their impoverished rural families to the city with promises of work and a regular income, the children were instead sold or trapped and forced to work long hours without breaks or food and threats of violence for disobedience. Working with little food and abysmal sanitation, the children are understandably traumatized and suffering from malnutrition, illness and skin diseases. Many came from the state of Bihar in the north where their parents were driven by the desperation of abject poverty to sell them for between $100 to $200.
Child trafficking is becoming an epidemic in India and human rights’ activists have chastised the police for ignoring the problem all too often.The rescued children are among the lucky ones because as many as 11 Indian children go missing every hour, falling victim to gangs who kidnap them and press them into service for child labor and prostitution. More than 4 million Indian children work in construction or agriculture or as domestic servants or rag pickers, or in manufacturing industries such as making bangles, tobacco, fireworks and carpet weaving. As many as 40 percent are never found again.
Therefore, human rights’ advocate Christine Caine, co-founder of the anti-trafficking organization, the A21 Campaign with her husband Nick, joined many others in public rejoicing on her Facebook page that another group of “Captives have been SET FREE!” However, activists caution that seeing to the proper care and rehabilitation of the rescued Indian children will be a critical next step in helping them avoid becoming easy marks for re-enslavement by other criminals. They emphasize that the rescue is only the tip of the iceberg requiring much physical and emotional care to help them reclaim their lives, perhaps even reunite with their families in some cases. Save Childhood Movement’s lawyer Bhuvan Ribhu aims to see that they are fairly compensated for the work they have done and that their oppressors pay the consequences for their crimes against the children.
The most recent efforts to combat the human trafficking operations in Hyderabad were fueled by informants’ and activists’ tip-offs about the hidden workshops scattered throughout the narrow alleyways. A police spokesperson vowed that the crackdown on human trafficking and child slavery will continue. They recognize that wiping out the trafficking operations will be a long-term effort that requires constant vigilance. In addition to rescuing the Indian children, police also caught 31 traffickers in their sting, arresting them and charging them with child slavery, taking a few more crooks out of circulation where they cannot hurt anymore children.
By Tamara Christine
Image courtesy of frederick_rowing – Flickr License