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Hunt for Chatra quartet

Ranchi, Aug. 8: The Chatra district administration has identified four middlemen who lured 22 Jharkhand children to work in Jaipur where they were underfed and subjected to fatiguing work hours at a gem factory for two years before a chance rescue last week.

Deputy commissioner Amit Kumar refused to divulge names just yet, but said that all the four, aged between 35 and 40 years, were natives of Chatra and worked in the pink city of Rajasthan. They were frequent visitors to various blocks of Chatra and Giridih, and convinced parents of the victims, some as young as six then, of a panacea for poverty if they sent their children to work at Nagina, the factory in Jaipur that was raided on August 4.

“Yesterday, after our team brought the children home, they interacted with them and their parents and learnt about these men. We have lodged an FIR against all four at Chatra police station and are probing their link with the employer (owner of Nagina). We suspect more people are involved in this racket. The four we have already identified will be arrested within a few days,” deputy commissioner Kumar told The Telegraph today.

The district administration, which is learnt to have launched an “intensive search”, is seeking help from voluntary organisations and village heads to zero in on middlemen, and thereby weed out child slavery.

“These touts are paid hefty money by employers for child workers who can be tormented into doing the job. We have directed mukhiyas to, henceforth, register name and details of every visitor,” Kumar said.

The deputy commissioner, following orders from the labour commissioner and SCPCR, has already rolled out a rehabilitation programme for the 22 boys, 20 from Chatra and two from Giridih.

A database has been prepared to enroll the children at government schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. “We have taken permission from the education department. Each will receive an annual scholarship of Rs 500,” Kumar said.

Also, in order to dissuade parents from sending minors to work, the administration has decided to institute a pension of Rs 600 per month for those under the BPL category.

A short-term vocational training will be provided to one of the rescued victims who is a resident of Tikar village in Chatra block. “He is the son of a poor farmer, has cleared Class VIII and alone meets eligibility criteria,” Kumar said.

The boy will take up a vocational course at Tool Room Training Centre in Ranchi.