The rescued children (faces blurred to protect their identities) with Chatra deputy commissioner Amit Kumar and other officials on Thursday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, Aug. 7: A group of 22 children from Jharkhand, some as young as eight and working under distressing conditions at a gem factory in Rajasthan for two years, was rescued earlier this week and reunited with their families today.
Overworked — some for 14 to 15 hours a day — and underfed, 20 of these young victims of slavery belong to Chatra district while two hail from Giridih.
Accompanied by labour officials and members of a voluntary outfit, the children reached Koderma station on board the Ajmer-Sealdah Express late last evening in a chilling rerun of the May rescue of over 150 Godda children from orphanages in Kerala.
The 22 children were handed over to Chatra deputy commissioner Amit Kumar who is expected to oversee rehabilitation as directed by labour commissioner Manish Ranjan and the State Commission For Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR).
According to deputy commissioner Kumar, poor parents of these children had willingly sent them to Nagina Factory in Jaipur to work. The agreement was that the factory would directly pay the families back in Jharkhand, which, unfortunately, rarely happened.
“The children, at least six of them less than 10 years old, were kept in captivity, disallowed contact with their families, made to work 14-15 hours a day and given just one square meal. They never saw a penny because factory officials claimed that the money was being routed to their parents, but the latter too didn’t receive the same for months at a time,” Kumar said.
Of Chatra’s 20 children, 16 are from Hunterganj block, three from Kanhachatti and one from Chatra block. Both the children from Giridih belong to its Hathgarh village.
Their ordeal of two years ended after a member of Jaipur’s child welfare committee, Vijay Goel, informed the Rajasthan labour department about the malpractice at the gem factory. Jharkhand labour commissioner Ranjan and Ranchi-based social organisation Bharatiya Kisan Sangh were taken into confidence.
On August 3, a four-member team — comprising the labour extension officers of Chatra and Giridih, and two officials of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh — left for Jaipur. A day later, they raided the factory with the help of local administration and police to rescue the 22 children.
They were lodged at a shelter until a couple of days ago. Before they left for home the Jaipur administration issued them “relief certificates” to ensure proper rehabilitation and benefits under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Act) 1986.
Chatra deputy commissioner Kumar said after reaching Koderma, the children spent the night at a residential school and boarded a bus for home this morning. “They must have been reunited with their families by now, thanks to child welfare committee members,” he told The Telegraph this evening.
According to Kumar, the factory paid a paltry monthly remuneration per child to the parents. “It varied between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000, but sometimes the money didn’t come,” he said, adding that each of the 22 victims had been given a preliminary rehabilitation sum of Rs 25,000 by the Jharkhand labour department.
“The relief certificate will help the children avail of government schemes and we will talk to the education department to seek their enrolment in schools,” he maintained.
Member of SCPCR Sanjay Mishra said he had requested the Chatra deputy commissioner to provide employment opportunities to parents of the rescued children to prevent a rerun. “Children below 14 years will be admitted to local schools while the others will be offered vocational courses,” he added.
Birendra Kumar, a member of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh who had accompanied these children from Jaipur, said they were more than glad to board the train home. “They were dying to meet their parents after two years. It was a happy journey.”