Amid the pandemic, 331 child labourers rescued last year

Amid the pandemic, 331 child labourers rescued last year

New Delhi: As the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown led to tens of thousands in the Capital losing their jobs and family incomes, their children and many other children were taken advantage of and forced into child labour.

In fact, according to data compiled by the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), as many as 331 children were rescued from forced labour in 2020-21. In the three years between 2017 and 2019, a total of 202 children were rescued from labour conditions.

While many of these children were forced into labour due to the conditions that were created after the pandemic broke out, the dramatic rise in child rescues in 2020 can also be attributed to what DCPCR chief Anurag Kundu called the rights body's renewed commitment to fight child labour in the city.

In the preceding three years, DCPCR facilitated the rescue operations of 202 children overall," he said, adding that this is an increase of nearly 490 per cent - displaying DCPCR's renewed commitment to eliminating child labour from Delhi.

But the DCPCR had on multiple occasions warned last year that instances of child labour were likely to increase owing to the after-effects of the pandemic-induced lockdown.

"International Labour Organisation (ILO) has predicted that with COVID-19 pandemic, the world may witness an increase in child labour for the first time in 20 years, thus, there is a risk of reversing years of progress in this arena," the Commission wrote in one of their press statements last year.

As per the child rights body, these children were rescued from different places such as factories, bakery units, kharat machine units and auto centre units, as well as residential colonies where the children were working as domestic servants.

Accordingly, the compounds have been sealed by the SDMs, and FIRs registered by the Delhi Police. "These children have been produced before the Child Welfare Committees the same day which conducted their social investigation to trace families for their restoration and reintegration," DCPCR said.

The DCPCR found that non-payment of minimum wages, inordinately long working hours, and unhygienic working conditions emerged as the common pattern in most cases.

"DCPCR is committed to tracking these children's education enrolment, and the families' involvement in different government schemes," said officials. The child rights body has also initiated the process of paying back wages to these rescued children.

Kundu stressed the importance of citizen reporting to fight child labour effectively and encouraged more residents to report such instances.

The DCPCR's incentive scheme pays out Rs 1,000 rewards for reporting instances of child labour and some can even win up to Rs 10,000. He added that Rs 49,000 had been given out in such rewards last year.

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