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Bengaluru: The Andhra Pradesh Police rescued 4,806 children in a Covid-19 drive of Operation Muskaan, a central government initiative to rescue children working as labour at factories and brick kilns.

The special project launched by the Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police, Gautam Sawang, was aimed at both rescuing children and reducing their risk of being exposed to coronavirus.

“Many of them lived in very small spaces, and it would have led to the spread of the virus. We have screened every single child who has been rescued,” said a senior police official associated with the operation.

Launched on 14 July, Operation Muskaan Covid-19 rescued children who were homeless, employed as bonded labour or were found begging on the streets during the pandemic. Of the total number of children rescued, 4,075 are boys and 731 are girls, between the ages of 4 to 15. Of them, 72 are from Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal. DGP Sawang told ThePrint the statewide rescue operation was based on credible information of children being exploited or left unattended.

“The lockdown and shutting down of industries forced many people to stop work. Children were also found to have been employed in several (of these) places and we launched Operation Muskaan Covid-19 specially to ensure the spread of the virus does not take place (among these vulnerable children),” said the senior police official. “The idea was to rescue all these children during Covid times especially so that their lives are saved from the virus and their exploiters,” he added.

The week-long drive that ended on 20 July was conducted under the larger Operation Muskaan that was launched by the Centre in 2015. The Andhra Pradesh Police has been implementing it in phases in the state.

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