Police rescue hundreds of child workers in southern India

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HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Police have rescued hundreds of children working in hazardous industries in a southern Indian city despite laws that ban child labor, an official said Thursday.

In a series of raids on leather tanning and plastic factories in Hyderabad over the past 10 days, police said they rescued at least 350 children.

Child welfare officials accompanied some of the children Thursday as they were sent in a special railway car to be reunited with their parents in Bihar, one of India's poorest states. Nearly 200 children returned to Bihar earlier in the week, police said.

Police arrested five men accused of supplying children to factory owners.

A police official said the children were working long hours in deplorable conditions.

"We found the children confined to their work place in inhuman conditions," said V. Satyanarayana, a top police official in Hyderabad. "They were forced to work for nearly 12 hours a day without any respite."

"Many of the children were suffering from skin and other diseases as they were forced to work in unhygienic and unventilated dark rooms," Satyanarayana said. He said their employers would monitor them with video cameras and any child who stopped working would be beaten.

Raids on factories to check for child workers will be carried out twice a month, a labor welfare official said.

"We are taking effective measures to eradicate the mafia behind bringing children from other states to work in hazardous industries in Hyderabad," R.V. Chandravan said.

India has laws aimed at fighting child labor by making education compulsory up to age 14 and prohibiting their employment in hazardous occupations. But grinding poverty still causes many children to be pushed into work, with factory agents promising their wages to their parents. The 2011 census found that about 4.35 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 were employed across India.

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