CLAIRE PHILLIPS

Contemporary Portrait Artist


 

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Rescued Boys

114 x 112 cm
oil on canvas

Rescuing the children from factories can be dangerous and disturbing. To the factory owner the children are valuable assets that save him thousands of rupees by working long hours for free. He has to keep them hidden, so they generally live, work and sleep in the factory, often working twelve to fourteen hours a day for two bowls of rice and a bowl of dahl.

Many activists have been beaten and shot at as they try to gather the children to take them to safety. Often the factory owners tell the children that if they do not work hard enough the police will come and take them off to jail. When BBA arrive, accompanied by police, the children are frightened and try to run back to the security of the factory. When they finally arrive at the rescue home they are confused and traumatised, not knowing who to trust.

Just before my visit to Mukti Ashram Rescue Centre, 55 boys between the ages of 8 and 14 had been rescued. The calm as I arrive is eerie. The boys sit uneasily on a wall around an open yard, murmuring quietly and staring warily at anyone who comes near. Some boys sit huddled together, sticking with those they had known in the factory, others silently on their own. 

These three boys, rescued from a recycling plant, had worked from 9am to 10pm six days a week sorting discarded plastic rubbish by colour. They speak of the injuries they received from beatings and how they had slept on the factory floor. Although happy to be rescued, they just want to go home.