Ranchi, June 24: The high-profile return of 128 Godda’s children from Kerala in June has revealed an irony that the administration, including policemen, can’t miss. The number of missing reports lodged in a thana has no bearing on how many minors have disappeared from the area.
As the 128 Muslim children, most of them girls, settle back in their dirt-poor homes and the administration mulls on their rehab in a bid to dissuade parents from sending them back to Kerala orphanages, Godda district is discovering how more myths get busted everyday.
Though topical, the problem is at least seven years old in Godda. But not all minors are Muslims and not all had been sent to Kerala. Children, irrespective of religion, are sent to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan too. Preliminary findings suggest one out of every 10 children becomes untraceable, and what is worse, thanks to lack of initial missing reports, continues to stay off the radar even if relatives wake up.
Take Kirtan Yadav of Dighi village (Pichhri Tola) in Mahagama block, Godda. He is now hounding the administrative office in the hope of tracing his 10-year-old nephew who got lost in Mumbai in 2013.
Kirtan’s relative, Bhagirath Yadav, who runs a small dhaba on Deoghar-Pirpainti Road, told The Telegraph the boy was among 10 children between the ages of 10 and 15 sent to Mumbai last year.
“We know the whereabouts of nine boys but not our nephew. His father died years ago and we don’t know what to tell his poor mother,” he said.
Trafficking, entangled with family ties, is difficult to prove and stop.
Mahagama OC Pascal Toppo pointed out the obvious. “No missing report has been lodged by any Yadav in the past one year. Had the Kerala incident not happened, we would have never come to know about these children.”
Officials at Godda Vikas Bhavan said similar incidents had been reported from Barmasiya and Narayani villages, Pathargama and Mahagama blocks.
SDM Gaurango Mahto said he had been receiving verbal complaints from poor parents since the arrival of the 128 children from Kerala. “We are cross-verifying verbal claims. But, people must make official complaints,” he said.
He added the district administration would focus only on families of “Kerala-returned children” for now, with a special census underway.
District social welfare officer Anil Tirkey said: “Yes, I suppose you can call it a census, but it is for families whose children came back. Later, this will be done across blocks (Basantrai, Mehrama, Mahagama and Pathargama) from where children went to Kerala.”
“Information from families has been collected, starting from number of members, their education, livelihood, annual income and others. Based on details, we will decide upon their aid so that children are not sent away again,” he said.
DC Rajesh Kumar Sharma said he was hopeful that the census would identify gaps. “At present, we are focusing on the children’s rehab. A building in Poraiyahat has been identified to be converted to a residential school,” he said.
Godda officials are also looking into the possibility of madarsa education at the school.