A 7-year-old boy was among 12 children rescued by local authorities and NGO staff over the weekend, after spending months in bonded labour at a road-side café in western India.
Some of the 12 children—who had all been trafficked from disadvantaged tribal communities in Rajasthan state—had been forced to work in these restaurants for three years under five abusive owners. They experienced constant verbal abuse and threats and were never allowed to see their families. All the while, they were forced to work at these small restaurants along the busy highway to Udaipur.
IJM’s casework partner Jai Bhim Vikas Shikshan Sansthan (JBVSS) had investigated these cafes alongside officials from the District Legal Services Authority, Child Welfare Committee, Labor Department and the police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit.
On January 9, the group split into ten rescue teams to try hitting the 14 suspected crime scenes without a tip-off. Authorities believe the restaurant owners managed to hide four or five children, but 12 others were rescued and brought to safety. Police have filed charges against five suspects who trafficked or abused these children and will continue searching for other victims.
Next, officials helped the children give their official statements and then took them to a local shelter to begin their recovery. Authorities will help assess the safety of their hometowns and will seek to reunite them with their parents. JBVSS staff will also support the kids’ long-term aftercare and education in freedom.