Islampur/Malda, Feb. 14: A patrol of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) today rescued 17 child labourers from Thakurganj in Bihar’s Kishanganj district on the India-Nepal border, about 55 km from Islampur this morning.
Two men — Barkat Ali and Mahatab Ali — who were accompanying them have been arrested.
SSB sources said the boys were between eight and 14. They are all from the Kaliachak police station area of Malda. The border force has contact
ed the district administration of Kishanganj and requested them to get in touch with the guardians of the children.
The Malda police have been contacted as well.
Sagar Saha, the inspector-in-charge of the Kaliachak police station, said the arrested men could be prosecuted under the child labour laws (see chart). The police officer said he had heard about the rescue and was already making inquiries as to where the boys came from.
SSB commandant Sunil Chopra said: “The patrol spotted the group near the Thakurganj area of the border. When our jawans confronted them, the two men who were with the group tried to flee, but were caught.”
Both Barkat and Mahatab told the SSB that they were taking the children to work in brickkilns located along the India-Nepal border. They, too, are from Kaliachak.
“We are also investigating if the children were going to be sold off in Nepal. We are trying to get in touch with the brickkiln owners,” Chopra said. He said the children have been taken to the SSB camp in Dodibhita near Thakurganj.
According to the SSB, the children, who had left their homes on February 12, were lured by the money offered to work in the brickfields. Some of the boys are from villages, like Dogari, Hasanpur and Golapganj.
Both Barkat and Mahtab have owned up and said they had arrived in Kishanganj by bus from Malda and then proceeded by another bus to Thakurganj, 42 km away.
“They said they did not take the train for fear of detection. The men denied that they were trying to sell off the children but confessed that they get a cut from the brick kiln owners when they provide them with workers,” one of the SSB interrogators said.
“While some of the children told our men that they had come along on their own free will, others, it seems, had been handed over by their parents. But then there are some who have run away from home,” Chopra added.
Saha said there was nothing new about thousands of men, women and children leaving the district to look for work elsewhere. “Even groups of minors leave with their parents’ consent as they are all very poor and work is hard to come by in Malda,” Saha said.
He said most of the exodus takes place from Kaliachak, Gajole and Sujapur areas. “Delhi-bound trains are full of these people who are taken to north and west Indian towns for work,” he said.
He said the labourers were usually promised Rs 100 to Rs 120 a day by the agents.