The 13 rescued children, their faces blurred to protect identities, at Ranchi station on Wednesday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, May 7: A Jharkhand government team, which went to Bangalore last month to rescue 14 child workers, returned today with 13, a 10-year-old Bokaro boy mysteriously lost in transit.
While state officials claim the minor got off the Hatia-Yeswantpur Express unnoticed by the five-member team, led by Koderma district child protection officer (DCPO) Narendra Singh, the network of voluntary organisations that engineered the freedom mission has accused the government of ruining their good work.
“I came to know of the mishap while interacting with the team. It is suspected that the boy got off the train around 4pm yesterday,” Ranchi child welfare committee chairperson Jahan Ara said, adding that they were not sure if the missing child could be tracked. “Let’s see what can be done.”
Of the 13 children — all boys — who were brought to Ranchi, nine belong to Koderma, three hail from Giridih and one is a native of Bokaro.
Abhijit Mukherjee, a functionary of CRY in the state capital, said the children were lured with the promise of education, but engaged as bonded labour at a golgappa factory in the southern city for two to four years.
Two of CRY’s partner NGOs — Samarpan and Rashtriya Jharkhand Seva Sansthan based in Koderma — initiated the rescue mission on April 20.
“Samarpan received a call on April 19 from Bangalore-based Talash Association, which informed them about the children from Jharkhand. The two Koderma-based organisations got together with a few others and approached the deputy commissioner who formed the five-member team,” Mukherjee said.
Besides DCPO Singh, the other members were district police sub-inspector Lal Bihari and three constables. The parent of one of the Koderma boys, who was suffering from malaria, was also allowed to accompany the state team, which left for Bangalore on April 28.
Mukherjee was extremely disappointed about the missing boy blot on an otherwise smooth operation.
“All these children hail from very poor families. Their parents were conned by a local broker, Shiv Shankar Yadav, who runs his business in Bangalore. He promised the families good monthly income and education for their children, but engaged the boys as labourers. How could the state team let one of the children disappear?”
Child welfare committee chairperson Ara cited resource crunch for the goof-up. “No one lets a child go missing deliberately. We had information about only six children, but when the team reached there, they found 17,” she said, adding that three more Koderma boys, in addition to the nine brought to Ranchi, were handed over to their parents who had trailed the team.
Ara also accused a section of government officials of non-co-operation. “The Ranchi DCPO denied us help today. I am personally arranging for private cabs to send these children home. One boy has fled. We cannot risk sending the others by bus. We are doing our best. No point blaming the rescue team,” she said.
DCPO of Ranchi Ira Kumari could not be contacted.