Ranchi, June 9: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today took suo motu cognisance of media reports that Jharkhand labour department team “confirmed” trafficking of 500-plus Muslim children to Kerala from eastern states, on a day 119 state minors boarded a train back home after a fortnight’s ordeal.
Media reports so far taken into account by the panel say that eight persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the interstate child trafficking racket with links to orphanages in Kerala.
The panel observed that the contents of media reports, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights. It has issued notices to the chief secretaries and directors-general of police of the governments of Jharkhand and Kerala, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.
According to Delhi-based NHRC spokesperson Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, they were taking the matter “very seriously”.
Media reports, including one of the earliest in The Telegraph in May, said the racket was busted at Palakkad station only when children were held for ticketless travel and adults with them did not have valid papers.
But for 119 children of Godda, this evening marked a comfortable — not to speak of high-profile — homecoming as Jharkhand’s eight-member team led by labour commissioner Manish Ranjan helped them board Ernakulam-Patna Express train.
At Palakkad, a final check revealed one child of the 120 slated to board the train was from Bihar. Finally, 119 children of Godda finally boarded the train around 8pm.
The children will reach Jasidih station in Deoghar on Wednesday around 3pm and then be sent to their homes in villages of Godda district, by buses.
Labour commissioner Manish Ranjan told The Telegraph that 16 personnel from Kerala were part of the escort party.
“They comprise eight police personnel, including four mahila police, six senior bureaucrats and two anganwadi workers,” said Ranjan.
Social welfare minister Annapurna Devi, who took the rescue initiative in May within 24 hours of the media breaking the news on May 25, it is more like “mission successful”.
“I pray the children come back home safe and healthy,” she told over the phone.
“I will meet them once they are back in Godda. Let them settle down first. I will ensure that children get proper education and livelihood options are generated for their parents,” she said.
Sajal Chakraborty, acting CS, who also was at the forefront of forming a rescue team, said: “Thank God. Our team has done a good job.”
Godda administration is fine-tuning arrangements to ferry the children from Jasidih to Godda by buses.
Godda DC Rajesh Kumar Sharma said that he directed DDC Godda (Arun Kumar Ratan) to make proper arrangements to send children from Jasidih.
The DC said: “Initially, children will go to their parents. But after four-five days they will be enrolled to residential schools, the girls in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and boys in welfare department-run institutions.”
If the above options do not work out, he said, a double-storey building has been identified in Godda town for the children’s education.
Of the 589 children detained at Kerala’s Palakkad on their way to orphanages, 167 were from Jharkhand, while the rest were from Bihar and Bengal. But officially, 120 children were escorted to the train this evening as parents of the rest kept coming in the past few days to personally take charge of the wards.
The incident has taken on a political colour ever since probe revealed that Jharkhand’s children were bound for Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode, chaired by Syed Hyederali Shihab Thangal of the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the ruling Congress-led United democratic front Government in Kerala.
This is one tangle that chief ministers Hemant Soren and Oommen Chandy, who share a common Congress factor in their respective governments, will sort out.