By Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition Coordinator, National Consumers League
Moin Khan isn’t a name known by most Americans, but it should be.
Moin Khan went to work in New Delhi at age seven—one of several million child laborers working in India (estimates by advocacy groups of the number ofchildren working in India range from 44 million to 100 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor).
Moin’s case stands out though because he had a particularly brutal employer—his uncle, Kalimullah Khan —allegedly beat him to death with a blunt weapon on April 16 because the boy was working too slow.
Moin was only 10 when he was murdered.
Three years earlier, the Moin left his home on a train and traveled to New Delhi, about 300 miles away, in a deal arranged between the uncle and the boy’s grandfather. For the last three years of his life—for the rest of his life– Moin did not see his parents. He worked tirelessly, rolling bidis or beedes—thin cigarettes popular in India. Imagine a seven-year-old bent over 14 hours a day working feverishly at a repetitive task and you may start to sense what Moin’s new life was like. But the reality was even worse than you might imagine.
“Kalim was a really bad man. He beat up all of us if we made the smallest of mistakes. His punishments were severe,” said a seven-year-old boy rescued when Khan was arrested.
“He would put hot iron rods into our pants or he would hang us upside down from the fan or even throw us hard on the floor,” added the boy, one of five children who worked in the factory. “We were not allowed to go out or talk to anyone.”
On the day he killed his nephew, Kalimullah Khan beat all five children he “employed,” including Moin’s brother who is mute. Employed is in quotes because many child laborers in India do not get paid. Many are, in fact, slaves.
The sad details of Moin’s life were only discovered because a mortician noticed horrible bruises all over the young boy’s body and called authorities.
One wonders how many more children are being abused like Moin.
In the wake of Moin’s death, vigils have been held in New Delhi and a bright light has shown on exploitative child labor which is technically illegal in India. To improve enforcement, authorities just announced that they will be adding a hotline in New Delhi. India also banned child labor in circuses last month.
The public and officials in India are increasingly aware of child labor horrors. Moin Kahn did not intend to make his tragic death stand for something, but it has.
Readers interested in child labor should visit the web site of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. News from the CLC may also be followed under the Twitter name ChildLABRcoaltn.