NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hundreds of Indian children trafficked and enslaved to make bangles have been rescued by police in a series of early morning raids in the southern city of Hyderabad, local NDTV news channel reported on Friday.
Police found 87 children - mostly boys and some as young as 6 years old - crammed into a bangle-making workshop in the old city area in the latest raid on Thursday.
Five days earlier, police discovered 220 children when they stormed similar workshops in another part of the city, arresting more than 20 suspects.
Television images showed the children packed into a room where they worked and slept. The children, who sat at tables and continued decorating the lacquered bangles even after police and journalists entered the place, said they worked from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“We work from morning to night. They don’t let us play. I want to go home and told the employer, but he said he wouldn’t let me go home,” said Joginder, one of the rescued children.
Police said the children were mainly from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in northeastern India, and that traffickers had given their impoverished parents 5,000 rupees ($80) as payment for the children.
The rescued children will be sent to a shelter until their families can be retraced, said police. But activists say better rehabilitation is required as rescued children are often re-trafficked because their families are impoverished.
Thousands of Indian children, mostly from poor rural areas, are taken to the country’s cities every year by trafficking gangs who sell them into bonded labour or hire them out to unscrupulous employers, promising to send their parents their wages.
Most end up as domestic workers or labourers in brick kilns, roadside restaurants or small textile and embroidery workshops.
In many cases, the children are forced to work long hours under hazardous conditions. Often they are not paid and go missing, and their families are unable to track them down.
There are no official figures on the number of child workers in India. The 2014 Global Slavery Index says the country is home to more than 14 million victims of human trafficking.
Reporting by Nita Bhalla, editing by Alisa Tang.