He was able to reopen when restrictions began looming in July, but only saw a fraction of his previous business resume. To make ends meet, he decided to send his 14-year-old son Asif, whose school was closed anyway, to work in a car painting shop in Delhi hundreds of miles away.
Asif spent 9 months a month working at the shop, learning how to prepare car bumpers for a new paint coat, earning less than a dollar a day. Then on Tuesday, a team of child rights activists, government and police officials raided the shop and rescued it.
On the same day, the team found 11 other children working in a small roadside restaurant in Delhi. They had been working to wash dishes and serve food for a long time. Seven of the 12 children taken into custody by the authorities were under 14.
Indian law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14, except for child actors or family businesses. Children between 14 and 18 may work in “non-hazardous” occupations, but many parents and employers have a poor understanding of that definition under the law.
Child labor problem in India is very longAnd fired even more children at work. According to the most recently available government data – which is over a decade old – more than 33 million children under the age of 18 illegally work in industries including mining, construction, garment manufacturing and tobacco production. Many are exposed daily to dangerous situations.
Under India’s dire epidemic, all schools across the country of 1.3 billion people were closed. Thousands of businesses went under and millions lost their jobs, financial hardship spread to a whole new segment of the population.
India saw a 23.9% decline in GDP in the first quarter this year compared to the previous year, the worst recession in four decades for the country that has been seen as a rising Asian economic power to rival China.
The government and child rights organizations fear that the crashing economy and the closure of all schools will push many other parents to send their children to work – making them more vulnerable to child smugglers.
Thousands of raids such as CBS News watched this week have been carried out in recent months.
Arshad Mehdi led dozens of people, “We have raided many cities and towns and many cities and towns and bus terminals and managed to get thousands of children rescued, but smugglers brought children to big cities like Delhi and Mumbai Has adopted new methods for Rescue campaign for Delhi-based child rights organization Bachchan Bachao Andolan, told CBS News.
Activist Kailash Satyarthi, A.For his four decades of work fighting child labor in India. He warns that the epidemic will increase trafficking for child labor and sexual exploitation. Last month, along with a dozen other Nobel laureates, Satyarthi called on governments and organizations to raise $ 1 trillion to protect children globally from the effects of the coronovirus crisis.
A complex problem
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, India was actually turning its back on its child labor problem. But experts fear the epidemic will erase decades of progress achieved through hard work.
“A lot of families have been pushed into poverty due to the virus,” said Ashma of the Delhi Commission of Protection of Child Rights. “Many families do not have the resources to survive. The only way for them is for everyone to work.”
On Tuesday, the father of another child, who was rescued from an auto paint shop, told CBS News that he pleaded with the shop owner, a friend of his, to hire his son Mohit.
Mohit’s father Uday Raj said, “My son was least interested in schooling.” “If he is not going to school, what is wrong if he learns a skill and is able to earn some money for himself … should he sit idle at home?”
Mohit’s employer, Sachin, now under arrest, said that he was trying to help his friend.
Sachin told CBS News, “I am not a big businessman. I am from a poor family myself.” “I work in a rented shop and out of the house and am hardly making any money during the coronovirus period.”
The government has asked him to deposit 60,000 India rupees (about $ 800) as salary. He will still face criminal trial for employing minors, but activists say convictions are very rare.
Earlier this month, the federal government of India left the state governments to decide whether to reopen the schools in mid-October. But if classes resume, given the economic impact of the epidemic, many families may be reluctant to get their children out of paying jobs.
The 12 children found in Tuesday’s raids were kept in quarantine for 14 days and will remain in the house run by the Bachchan Bachao Andolan Sangathan. Their parents will be called, counseled and possibly provided some financial support as well, in the hope that they will not send their children to work again.