Child worker in gunny-bag trap

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 26.08.08
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Rahul Singh

A child worker who had refused to fetch water for his employer after slaving the whole day was made to pay for it by spending the night inside a gunny bag with hands and feet tied and mouth taped.

“I was first slapped for saying I was tired after a hard day at the tarpaulin shop. My employer then put me in the gunny bag and left me in the shuttered shop for the night. I was hungry, afraid and thought I would die,” Rahul Singh, 9, told Metro after returning to his Howrah home on Monday afternoon.

Rahul’s truck driver father Dinesh, who had searched for him all of Sunday night, went to a police station after hearing about his son’s ordeal but suddenly changed his mind about filing a complaint against the accused, Om Prakash Agarwal.

When Dinesh had met the businessman at his shop-cum-godown on Kishanlal Barman Road on Monday morning to enquire about his son, Agarwal claimed that the boy left for home as usual after work on Sunday and that was the last he had seen of him.

But as Rahul was to disclose later, he was still inside the shop when his father went there. Around 2pm, Agarwal allegedly paid a rickshaw-puller some money to take the boy to Nandi Bagan, around 2km from Kishanlal Barman Road, and leave him there.

A weary Rahul trudged back home around 3pm and told his parents the story. Dinesh immediately went to a local Congress leader, Bimal Dutta, to complain against Agarwal. The duo and some residents of the area later went to Malipanchghara police station, but no complaint was lodged. Nobody would say whether the Singhs had arrived at a settlement with Agarwal.

Rahul’s mother Sumita Devi said she gave her thumb impression on a sheet of paper at the police station that she thought contained a complaint against her son’s employer. But a police officer said no investigation was done because the family chose not to file a complaint.

Amid the confusion, Rahul stuck to his story. “My employer asked me to fetch some drinking water around 4pm on Sunday. I did not intend to disobey him but he told me that he would teach me a lesson. Crouched inside the gunny bag, I tried to shout for help several times during the night but couldn’t because my mouth was taped.”

The boy’s father had gone to Agarwal’s shop once on Sunday night to look for him but had no inkling his son was held captive there.

Leave alone torture of the kind Rahul was subjected to, even employing a child is illegal. But children continue to work as domestics in households and errand boys in shops and other business establishments across the city.

A Gariahat trader’s wife had been arrested along with her maid last month for pressing hot tongs on an underage domestic help’s back to punish him for wetting his pants.

Sanjit Rai, 12, was rescued by a group of drivers who spotted him hiding in the basement. The high court has since had the boy sent to a child shelter, turning down his father’s plea for custody on the ground that he might be sent out to work again.