The Telegraph
Saturday , June 7 , 2014
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Train hitch defers kids’ homecoming

Ranchi, June 6: Jharkhand’s 129 children, who were rescued in Kerala and supposed to board a train tomorrow to reach their homes in Godda, will have to wait for a couple of days more as no extra coach is available in the daily-running Dhanbad-Alleppy Express.

The high-level state rescue team is now mulling next Monday or Tuesday as the day of departure via Ernakulam-Patna Express, which runs only on the two days.

Jharkhand labour commissioner Manish Ranjan, in Kerala now, told The Telegraph this morning that railway officials were trying their best to make available two compartments with escorts in Ernakulam-Patna Express by Monday or Tuesday.

Incidentally, the children had boarded this train to reach Kerala.

On May 24 and 25, 589 children from Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal were detained at Palakkad station by railway police while they were being brought to Kerala for orphanages run by NGOs.

Brought in two batches and without paperwork needed under Juvenile Justice Act and Orphanage and Other Charitable Homes Act, many children, when asked, said they weren’t orphans but were willingly sent by poverty-stricken parents.

Widespread outrage over this incident prompted Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday to admit to “procedural lapses”.

Jharkhand labour commissioner Ranjan agreed it was now an accepted fact that “major gaffes had occurred in maintaining documentary evidence”.

On the row over child trafficking versus parental consent, he said: “I observed a stark difference between the objective explained to parents and the actual purpose. I interacted with some parents and children here and their version is the children are here for good education and free stay. Poor parents will always say yes to free and high-quality facilities for their wards. But the curriculum in the orphanages suggests religious education is top priority.”

Prodded further, Ranjan refused to elaborate but added that a CID probe was likely.

An official who did not want to be named said the orphanages were funded by Gulf money, subject to the condition of imparting Islamic education to as many children as possible. The more the children, the more the funds.

Once the 129 children are back home in Jharkhand, Ranjan said livelihood schemes for their parents were priority to break the cycle of poverty.