Hands that rocked her cradle and waved her goodbye to Kerala, now hold her tight at the reunion in DAV school, Mahagama block in Godda on Thursday. (Chhandosree)
Mahagama (Godda), June 12: Daily wager Sabila Khatoon today signed documents that Godda district child welfare committee members handed her at the crowded DAV School hall in Mahagama block, as her eight-year-old “Kerala-returned” daughter waited quietly.
Minutes later, the woman walked up to the child standing with luggage, gripped her hands tightly and hugged her, pent-up emotions of the past 20 days welling up in tears.
Among hundreds of Godda’s economically backward Muslim residents convinced by agents that sending their children to Kerala orphanages would ensure a better life for them, Khatoon was one of the 85 parents who came to DAV school today to welcome her daughter back.
From noon to 4pm, child welfare and Godda district officials, aided by Eastern Coalfields Limited personnel, cleared paperwork to help each of the 119 rescued children get reunited with parents.
Each had a different story on why his or her child was sent off this May for Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode. But, abject poverty was the common thread.
Prodded, Khatoon said she was a single mother as her husband had left her last year for another woman. Her earnings as a daily wager hardly managed to feed her three children.
“I do not get regular work. It becomes difficult to feed the children. If this girl had settled properly in Kerala, I would have sent my younger ones too next year. This incident has shattered me as I paid Rs 1,500 to Shakeel (one of the Godda middlemen arrested in Kerala),” she said.
The next moment her eyes softened. “My daughter’s safe return is my greatest relief. I will try to get better work or appeal to the government for a proper job so that I can bring up my children,” she said.
Another mother, Nusrat Jahan hugged her seven-year-old daughter, and said: “Ab yahin padhna, kahin nahin bhejenge, theek (Now you study here, I won’t send you anywhere, okay)?” She asked her daughter if she had been fed and looked after in Kerala. The child nodded yes.
Fathers were restrained. But Md Ishaar, who had come to collect his daughter and whose name was announced at the very start by child development project officer Khadiza Fazima, admitted to The Telegraph that his plan of sending her away to Kerala had been “burbaki (foolishness)”.
“Hum sahi talim ke liye bheje thhe, par hum se burbaki ho gayi (I sent her for a good education, but it was my foolishness),” he said.
A Jharkhand team slated to go to Kollam district in Kerala to get back 21 Jamtara children, were forced to cancel the trip as they couldn’t get train tickets. According to talks between Jamtara DC Chandra Shekhar and his Kollam counterpart, officials of the southern state have said they would escort 21 children, along with two Bengal’s minors, to Howrah station “soon”. “We will pick children from Howrah,” Jamtara district social welfare official Javed Anwar Idrisi said.