Mohammad Chotu was only eight years old when he left his village for the northern Indian city of Jaipur. Human traffickers had promised his parents that there would be a good job waiting for him. For Chotu, who is now twenty, it was the start of a nightmare.
For years, Mohammed Chotu was locked up in a factory where he was forced to make fashion jewelry for up to 16 hours a day. This jewelry is sold in Europe, among other places. An aid organization gave him back his freedom. Chotu now works on behalf of this organization, trying to help children today to avoid a similar fate. For example, he explains to poor families how human traffickers operate. Indian police repeatedly carry out raids, looking for children who are illegally forced to work. The Indian aid organization Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation takes care of these children, housing them in safe places where they can get an education and vocational training. According to government figures, about ten million Indian children between the ages of five and 14 work. The highest number in the world, according to UNICEF estimates. Many children are sold into conditions akin to slavery by their families. The situation has got even worse during the coronavirus pandemic. During the month-long lockdown many migrant workers fled India’s industrial centers. To replace them, even more children from poor states are now being trafficked to the urban centers and forced to work.