Minors working in Valley sweatshops rescued

- GAURAV THAPA, Kathmandu

Mar 29, 2015-

Police on Sunday intercepted a vehicle carrying 16 children, three of them girls, at Nagdhunga along the Tribhuvan Highway. The children were rescued while they were being transported to Chitwan district by a child trafficking ring.

The children, all below 13 years of age with some as young as eight, were rescued from the Chitwan-bound microbus by a police team from the Thankot Police Check Post led by DSP Pravin Dhital.

“Suspecting that they were being trafficked, we rescued the children and have taken into custody three people involved in transporting them,” Dhital said.

The arrestees Chandra Bahadur Bal, 20, Dipesh Bal, 30, and Purna Bahadur Syangtan, 33, are believed to be recruiting agents for the trafficking ring that forcibly involved children in menial factory jobs.

The rescued children said they were working as labourers at a Kathmandu-based Kapan Carpet Factory operated by people known only as Maila, Saila and Kaila sahu and were being taken to another carpet factory in Chitwan operated by the same people.

“There are more children like us from where we come from,” one of the rescued boys said. “We were made to work non-stop from 4 am in the morning to 8 pm in the night, with just one break for lunch everyday except for Saturdays when we had to work only till 10 am.”

The children are being currently kept at Maiti Nepal, a women and child-rights organisation.

“The children have gone through severe physical exertion and some even have strain-marks on their body,” Maiti Nepal Chairperson Anuradha Koirala said. “They are all very scared after going through this ordeal and some of them are sick.”

“I wanted to go home but my employers said they had paid a huge sum to the agent who brought me here,” another rescued child said. According to him, agents visit villages and persuade gullible parents to part with their children in return for money and promises of good work (ramro kaam) in Kathmandu. All of the children rescued on Saturday are from villages in Rautahat and Makawanpur districts.

“The government has to come up with a complete programme for rehabilitating these children to prevent them from returning back to the sweatshops,” Koirala said, and questioned the government’s claim of Nepal being free from child labour.

The Nepal Labour Force Survey of 2008 estimates that there are 1.6 million child workers in Nepal out of which about 620,000 work in hazardous condition. “They are mostly employed informally as domestic servants, porters, rag pickers or carpet factory workers, as well as in restaurants and in the transportation sector,” a report based on the survey stated. “Depending on the sector, children may have to work long hours, carry heavy loads and face the risk of sexual exploitation.”

A different study conducted by Child Development Society in 2014 shows that more than 3,000 children, about half of them below 5, are working at or living in brick kilns with their families in the Valley alone.

Published: 30-03-2015 09:36

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