Rashiklal restaurant in Doranda, Ranchi, from where 10 child workers were rescued on Friday and (below) Dulal, the owner of the eatery. Pictures by Prashant Mitra
The Ranchi district administration on Friday rescued 23 child workers, 10 of them from a popular restaurant behind Jharkhand High Court, exposing how the law is often violated right under the nose of police and judiciary.
Member of child welfare committee Meera Mishra said the children - all boys - had been sent to Balashray, the state-run shelter in Hehal, where their age and family details would be verified on Saturday.
According to sources, following a tip-off, a team led by SDM Bhor Singh Yadav and comprising labour department officials swooped on Rashiklal vegetarian restaurant in Doranda around 2pm and took the 10 boys into custody.
The remaining 13 were rescued from various tea stalls on Station Road, Bahubazaar, Kokar and Bariatu where raids continued till 6pm. All are believed to be aged between nine and 14 years.
The owner of Rashiklal, who is known by his first name Dulal, pleaded not guilty in front of the SDM, saying he had hired all the children only for a day to buffer work pressure. Bhor Singh reprimanded him in public and directed Doranda police to take Dulal and his son into custody.
It is not known immediately whether the owner was detained or arrested.
Of the 13 other boys, six were rescued from tea stalls and a dhaba called Punjabi Bar on Station Road, two from Food Centre in Kokar and five from tea stalls in Bahubazaar and Bariatu.
A boy rescued from Rashiklal said he was 12 years old and hailed from neighbouring Bengal. He said he had been working at the restaurant for seven days, was paid Rs 100 daily and made to work for eight to 10 hours.
Another 12-year-old, found working at Punjabi Bar, said he was from Jonha (in Ranchi district) employed since Holi (in March). His salary was a tad better at Rs 4,000 a month.
When child welfare committee member Mishra was asked how so many child workers in the heart of the city went undetected so far, she said, "What do you expect from a committee whose members have not got their salary since October 2016. They have to pay for conveyance, telephone and other expenses required to run the panel in the first place."
Mishra added that if verification revealed that some of the boys were aged above 14, they would be released.