There are hundreds of them, suffering in anonymity and silence, in various pockets of a city too callous to care. On Wednesday, two tales of torture sprang forth from the shadows, bringing the plight of working children into ugly focus.
Thirteen-year-old V. Kartik and friend Pandi were brought to Calcutta about a year ago from their remote village in Tamil Nadu by a neighbour, Rajangan.
The same benefactor stood accused of torturing the boys ' even burning them with hot iron rods ' when they failed to carry out some task or the other.
Kartik managed to escape a few days ago and seek shelter with Hope Calcutta Foundation, a voluntary organisation, before taking his tale of torment to Tollygunge police station on Wednesday.
Pandi was later rescued from the clutches of his alleged tormentor and brought to the police station.
But when Rajangan came to Tollygunge thana, he cried foul. 'We never tortured the boys and they are trying to frame me,' he told Metro.
He, however, could not explain away the burn marks on the bodies of both the boys.
After hearing out the boys and Rajangan, the police advised them to go to Charu Market police station and lodge a formal complaint there.
'The place where the incident occurred falls under Charu Market, so please go there,' said a senior officer.
But en route to Charu Market, Rajangan allegedly slipped away and then could not be traced.
'A complaint has been lodged with us and we are probing the case. It seems Rajangan has escaped, but we will find him,' said investigating officer of Charu Market police station, R. Pradhan.
At Charu Market police station, the two boys, residents of Budhamangalam village, under Kellavallavu police station in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, narrated how they had been brought to the city by Rajangan, who was from a neighbouring village.
Kartik said he and Pandi were severely beaten up by Rajangan and his wife. They were even singed with hot iron rods. 'They gave us food only once a day and if we asked for food at night, they abused and beat us,' sobbed Kartik.
Rajangan, a businessman dealing in South Indian food ingredients, resides in a one-room, rented apartment in Lake Gardens.
'He promised to send me Rs 750 every month if I sent my son to assist him with his business,' said Valamalai, Kartik's father, who reached the city on Wednesday.
'We are poor farmers without any fixed income and so are compelled to send our children so far away,' he added.
After four months, Rajangan stopped sending money to Valamalai. 'We were worried. When we would call Rajangan, he would say that my son was fine but did not let him speak to us,' recounted Valamalai.
Overworked, bruised and burnt, Kartik finally fled Rajangan's house on September 5. His friend was rescued on Wednesday.