Ranchi, June 4: Godda has been left grappling with one question: why are families sending their children to orphanages, that too in such large numbers?
Rattled by the recent rescue of over 200 children of the district from a train station in Kerala, deputy commissioner Rajesh Kumar Sharma has asked district officials belonging to social welfare, education, health and panchayati raj departments to find out the reasons behind the migration of children.
The exodus came to light on May 25 after 500 children were rescued from Palakkad station in Kerala for travelling without tickets.
Local authorities suspected a largescale trafficking operation in which children form across the country — in this case from Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand — were enrolled into orphanages only to be sold off to overseas “clients”.
“It will be too early to label the incident as trafficking, but it is surely a case of mass migration,” Sharma said, contrary to what state officials camping in Kochi to bring back the children were claiming.
State labour commissioner Manish Ranjan insisted this was trafficking as some of the children, accompanied by their parents, weren’t carrying mandatory certificates from the Godda district administration.
“Most of them (children) are girls. All of them were about to be sent to Arab countries for sex, organ trade and such other crimes. Surprisingly, the traffickers managed to get fake ID cards for all of them,” Ranjan told The Telegraph on Sunday from Kochi.
Based on feedback from Ranjan, Sharma said so far, 172 children from Jharkhand had been accounted for. They were in the age group of 3 and 13. The total number is expected to be more than 200.
Sharma said he was aghast that such a trend went unnoticed. “In all probability, they boarded the train (Patna-Ernakulam Mail) from Jasidih Junction (in Deoghar district) around 6.15 pm on May 22. Jasidih is hardly 115 km away from Mahagama,” he said.
The deputy commissioner also revealed that it had now come to light that the same day, four buses with children left Basantrai block of Godda. “We are yet to find out if these buses were going to Kerala, too. Investigations are on,” he said.
Sharma has sought a status report on all flagship schemes in the three blocks of Mahagama, Meherma and Pathargama after parents said they regularly sent their children to orphanages to ensure a better life for them.
“It is clear everything is not fine. I have, therefore, asked for a correct report so that immediate efforts can be taken to help people,” he said.
Most of the children rescued are from poor Muslim families of Godda. Yesterday, the academic director of Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Calicut claimed that a huge misunderstanding led the authorities to suspect a clandestine operation involving children.
“I must confirm that the children were not trafficked. Neither are the children pushed into any wrong trade from here. Parents send their children because we provide everything free of cost. This is a charitable institution,” Abdul Gafoor told The Telegraph from Khozikode.
The deputy commissioner is now awaiting Ranjan’s return, hoping the labour commissioner would be able to clear the air.