Hyderabad: Behind the glitter of Hyderabad's famous bangles, lies a tale of shame: a group of children, all bonded workers, working in bangle-making units under pathetic and hazardous conditions.
In the wee hours of Saturday, the Hyderabad police, acting on information provided by the Intelligence Bureau, carried out a cordon and search operation in the city's Bhavani Nagar area. They found over 200 minor children from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, huddled in four rooms, employed as bonded workers in bangle-making units. (200 Child Labourers Rescued by Hyderabad Police in Early Morning Raids)
"Brokers bought them by paying Rs 5,000 to 1,000 to their parents. They brought them to Hyderabad and kept them in the hazardous and bangle-preparing industry, which deals in chemicals. We were shocked,'' said V Satyanarayana, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South, Hyderabad.
11-year-old Afridi, who suffered severe skin reactions after exposure to chemicals in the unit, earns Rs 2,000 per month. He works for nearly 13-14 hours a day.
"I work from 9 in the morning to about 10-11 in the night,'' he said.
We asked him if children should go to school instead of working in such conditions. His reply, wise beyond his years, was, "I don't know if children should work or study. But I know poor children need to work and children from rich families can study, if they are interested.''
Child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, who was recently honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize, told NDTV, "It is a circle of poverty, illiteracy and child labour, exploited by traffickers.''
10 people, including alleged brokers, have been arrested. But they claim that parents are forced to send their children to work as they don't see any other option for a better life.
"It is wrong to make small children work. But their parents send them so that the children don't go hungry and learn some skills to survive,'' said one of them.
Mohd Qadri, the alleged employer of the unit, claimed that all he was trying to do was provide employment to the children and a means to support their families.
"The police have rescued the children. Will they give them food, education, support? For how long? Will the families get an income of Rs 2,000 to survive? No, that won't happen,'' he said.