UK & World News
India: Child Slaves Rescued After Police Raids
India has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14.
These children are trafficked from the poorest parts of the country. All promised a better life in the bright lights of growing cities.
Some parents are paid just 3,000 Indian Rupees (less than £35 ) and a promise of more money later to part with their children. Traffickers quickly move them to the bigger cities and sell them to contractors.
Once in the clutches of a contractor, these children are put to work in almost inhuman conditions. They neither get their promised wages nor see their parents for years on end.
Kailash Satyarthi, of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a child campaign group, estimates the number of child labourers in India could be around 50 million; close to 80 % of Britain's population. Though the government maintains the figures are far less.
"Children are largely employed in the garment industry and a large number make products that are exported to the western world," he said.
"The cheap products are sold on the high streets of London, Paris and New York, and when people buy these cheap products they in turn are responsible for the perpetuation of slavery. These cheap products are made from the sweat and blood of these child slaves"
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Delhi is a hub and transit point for child trafficking. Sweatshops dot the capital.
Campaigners tell us it is very difficult to stop this practice unless there is a sustained and concerted effort from not only the authorities, but consumers themselves.
Police raids are not the solution and raids are complicated to initiate. It involves multiple departments of the government and also the police. In a number of instances the employers are tipped off before an impending raid because of corruption.
In this particular raid Sky News went on, activists had information of over 100 children employed in a three-storey building, but only found 31. The owner had been tipped-off and the children were made to disappear.
One of the children rescued is Rehman, who is just 13-years-old. He was brought to Delhi by a relative three months ago from his impoverished village in Bihar.
For the last three months he has been working from nine in the morning till after midnight, with breaks only for meals. He told me he worked with 30 children doing embroidery in one of the rooms in the building.
It is where they eat, sleep and work - it was their world. He was only allowed out on a Saturday for a few hours which he spent playing cricket in in the street.
He tells me he was too afraid to run away.
"Where would I run and who would I run to?" he said. "I have no money since I never got paid." Now he just wants to return to his mother.
Child labour is very real in many parts of India. The campaign groups say contractors prefer children as it is easier to deal with them. Once they are away from their guardians they eventually become bonded labourers and become almost free for their employers.
Rehman and his 30 friends are free now. They undergo a medical check and will be comforted by activists. The Government is responsible for uniting them with their families and enrolling them in schools.
But in many cases poverty drives them back into the clutches of contractors.
The raided sweatshop is sealed by the authorities and the employer is charged.
As for the traffickers, they have enough of a supply chain in the poverty-stricken villages of India. The cheap work force in sweatshops is soon replaced.
Products need to be manufactured for the insatiable demand of customers and for profits. It's win-win for everyone - except the children.