| The rescued children wait for their parents at Gamharia police station. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Jamshedpur, Nov. 6: A lecturer at the prestigious National Institute of Technology near Jamshedpur, who is associated with a non-government organisation under investigation, was arrested today for allegedly luring 33 children from nearby villages on the pretext of providing them better education, but instead confining them in “inhuman” conditions for three days.
Sajjan Kumar Paswan, a lecturer in civil engineering at the institute in Adityapur, was arrested along with two associates, Rajnish Kumar Mishra and Hemant Kumar Mahto, after the children escaped early this morning from a house in Ichapur and told their tale to a police team which found them wandering.
All three men are key functionaries of the NGO, Chauharmal Yuva Sevashanstha, whose secretary is Paswan’s wife Indu Kumari. She is yet to be traced.
The Seraikela-Kharsawan administration said the NGO was under the scanner, though deputy commissioner N.P. Singh refused to spell out why.
But sources said the NGO possibly wanted to get funds and benefits by “proving” that it had taken so many children under its wings when it was actually fudging the numbers.
Paswan and his aides had got the children, all aged between five and 14 and residents of villages in Rajnagar block, to come with them after convincing their poor parents that their education would be taken care of.
They were promised food, clothing, footwear and better schooling. But once they reached Ichapur, they were kept in a house and treated like bonded labourers, given only one meal a day and made to do all chores.
Mahati Barta, the eldest of the children who studies in Class V in a government school, said: “Four days ago, a man named Babulal Tanti came to my house and convinced my parents to send me to a boarding school near Jamshedpur. As he stayed in our neighbouring village, my parents sent me. But we had no idea that it would be a nightmare for us.”
Early this morning, the children managed to give the guards the slip and escaped.
Deputy commissioner Singh said an inquiry has been started against the NGO on the basis of a complaint received against it. “The episode of collecting poor tribal children from Rajnagar by Chauharmal Yuva Seva Sansthan and the subsequent inhuman treatment meted out to them is all part of the nefarious designs of Sajjan Paswan,” he said.
Paswan said he assisted in running the NGO, which, he claimed, worked for children’s welfare. But when asked why the children had been kept in such conditions, he said: “My representatives working in the field had brought in more children than I had asked for. I was busy at some other work. Therefore, the children could not be looked after properly.”