As India’s schools begin a two-month break, anti-trafficking campaigners are warning that traffickers are going after impoverished school children, recruiting them to work in factories and on farms over the holiday.
The problem is that many of these children never return to school after they start working.
“In this season, playgrounds and neighbourhood shops become hunting grounds for traffickers,” said Kuralamuthan Thandavarayan of the International Justice Mission, an anti-trafficking charity.
“They track children from poor families and convince parents that it is a waste of time to allow their children to play or stay home when they can earn instead.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
“In many villages, with both parents out working, teenagers at home during summer break are lured by recruiters looking to hire cheap labour in the (textile) mills,” said Joseph Raj of the non-profit Trust for Education and Social Transformation.
Other children join their parents in brick kilns, where they work between November and June, when the rainy season begins. The recruitment and payment systems in these kilns trap seasonal migrant workers in a cycle of bonded labour, according to a 2017 report by the rights groups Anti-Slavery International and Volunteers for Social Justice.
Wages are low and often paid at the end of the season, and families are forced to put their young children to work to make 1,000 bricks a day, which allows them to make the minimum wage, said the report.
“Agents promise to bring the children back to the village in time for the new academic session. But the problem is that many don’t return,” said Krishnan Kandasamy of the National Adivasi Solidarity Council, an advocacy group.
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 10.1 million child laborers in India between the ages of 5 and 14. More than half work on farms, while a quarter work in manufacturing.
In Tamil Nadu, recent government figures revealed that 30 percent of the 1,821 people rescued from debt bondage last year were children.
Kandasamy, whose organization has rescued 465 victims of bonded labor this year alone, added, “We are increasingly finding children in mango orchards, jasmine flower farms, brick kilns, rag-picking centres and out grazing cattle.”