The Telegraph
Friday , June 6 , 2014
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Homecoming on tracks for 129 kids
- Rescue team treads cautiously on Godda trafficking victims

Ranchi, June 5: Nearly a fortnight after some of the state’s poorest children were found stranded at a station in Kerala, Jharkhand’s high-level rescue team currently stationed at the southern state’s Palakkad district has decided to bring back 129 minors whose identities have been verified by Godda administration.

Probing the sensitive angle of child trafficking to Kerala’s orphanages, the eight-member team, which includes labour commissioner Manish Ranjan and Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) member Sanjay Mishra, yesterday finalised a list of children it would bring back with them on Saturday via train.

After many seesaws, Jharkhand’s rescue officials also pencilled the number of Jharkhand’s children detained in Palakkad on May 25 at 167.

Of the 167, the team will bring back 129, parents will take charge of 31 others and seven will be handed over to the child welfare committee in Kozhikode, Kerala.

The logic behind this is simple. Only those children who could establish their identities, confirmed by Godda officials, would accompany the rescue team back to Jharkhand. The children whose parents were in Kerala with relevant proof would accompany them. Those who could not establish any identity — name, father’s name and village — would stay back with Kerala child welfare authorities for the time being.

“We had a marathon meeting with district collector K.Ramachandran and child welfare committee members yesterday. We decided 129 children would come with us in two bogeys of any of the direct Jharkhand-bound trains. Thirty-one others will be handed over to their parents and seven sent to the child welfare committee,” Mishra told The Telegraph from Palakkad this morning.

Ranjan, stressing on “rescue and safe departure from Kerala”, refrained from specifics. “I’d prefer to restrict myself from making comments while sitting in Palakkad. It is better we speak on the issue after reaching Jharkhand,” he said.

On May 25, 589 children were detained at Palakkad station. On May 24, there were 466 children from Bihar and Jharkhand, on May 25, there were 123 children from Bengal.

A major uproar over child trafficking ensued once the media flashed the news of hundreds of children found stranded at the station without papers. But in the days that followed, the Jharkhand rescue team discovered there was more to it than what met the eye.

Among the 466 children clubbed together as “belonging to Bihar-Jharkhand”, some had documents certifying their enrolment to Kerala orphanages.

Closer probing revealed Jharkhand’s children — the exact number of 167 was finalised only yesterday — belonged to Muslim families in Godda. They hailed from families so poor that they were packed off to orphanages for free food and lodging.

Parents willingly contacted agents who could take the children to the orphanages for a one-time pittance, it was established.

Then, a massive identity-verification exercise followed, based on the verbal evidence of children with regard to their own names and those of their respective fathers, villages and so on. Godda district administration, led by DC Rajesh Kumar Sharma, swung into action, roping in Panchayati Raj members to corroborate what the children had said.

Mishra added three CID officers were on their way to Palakkad to probe the matter.