Thiruvananthapuram, June 10: Twenty-four children, 20 of them from Jharkhand, have been rescued from an “unauthorised” orphanage in Kerala’s Kollam district that was shut down yesterday.
The move comes amid the growing chorus for a CBI probe into alleged child trafficking from Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal to Kerala. On May 24, the railway wing of the state police intercepted 456 children at a railway station in Palakkad district.
Yesterday, on a tip-off, a team led by district collector Pranab Jyothinath raided the orphanage run by the Perayam Jamaliya Arabic College. The officials found the children in unhealthy surroundings, crammed into a makeshift shed with a tin roof.
All the inmates are below 18 and have been shifted to a state-run children’s home. Four children are from Bihar.
The officials said the institution had been operating without a licence and did not have the children’s personal records. The collector has asked police, the social welfare department and the child welfare committee to look into the matter and file detailed reports.
Surprise checks have been done at another orphanage in Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district where 21 inmates were found to be from Jharkhand, the police said. Orphanage officials have been asked to produce the children’s records, including address and the letter of sanction to bring them to Kerala.
Kerala High Court today fixed June 30 for hearing an NGO’s petition seeking a CBI probe into the Palakkad station incident. The 456 children were headed to the Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode district.
The NGO claimed an inter-state racket seemed to exist and only a central agency would be able to unravel any nexus between the traffickers, financiers and the orphanage.
The crime branch of Kerala police, which took over the probe from the railway police, has arrested 10 persons alleged to be agents from Jharkhand and Bengal. A crime branch team will travel to Ranchi tomorrow with Shafeeq Sheikh, one of the arrested men, to probe the matter.
Sheikh, 30, is from Persia village in Jharkhand’s Godda district and was employed as a cook at the Mukkam orphanage. The police believe he has helped bring at least a dozen children to Kerala.
None of the orphanage officials has yet been arrested. The BJP and the CPM have claimed that child trafficking charges were not being pressed against Mukkam officials because of the orphanage’s link with the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the ruling Congress.