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Rohini Swamy Palakkad, May 28, 2014 | UPDATED 00:10 IST
Photo for representation.
Kerala Police and Palakkad district officials rescued almost 600 children being transported into the state from Bihar and Jharkhand on the pretext of sending them to orphanages. Officials, however, fear this to be a clear case of child trafficking.
On May 24, the authorities rescued 456 children, who were being transported from Bihar and Jharkhand. On May 25, 123 boys were rescued from another train at Palakkad railway station.
The authorities rescued the children following tips from Railway Police.
Eight people among the 43 who were escorting the children who were rescued on May 24 have been arrested. Of the 43 adults, 10 were women who had 10 infants with them, 8 boys and 2 girls.
The children, between the ages of 6 and 14, were packed in 3 unreserved compartments of the Patna-Ernakulam Express.
All that the children know is that they have been sent from home to an unknown place in Kerala to a so-called shelter home which would give them food and education. But is that what lies in store for them? The children were accompanied by 43 adults, who claimed to be their caretakers.
Palakkad district collector K. Ramachandran said, "Based on a tip-off, we found that 456 children were being transported to Kerala. We rescued the children who were being brought from Bihar and Jharkhand. Many of the kids are between the age of 6 to 14. They speak Hindi and they were told that they are going to be given food and education."
The children were apparently being taken to a shelter home, the Moiuddin Poya Haji Memorial Home in Kozhikode, north Kerala. V. Beeran, the manager of the shelter home, said, "For the last few years, we haven't been getting any children in our home. So we got these children so that we can take care of needy children. There is no exploitation here."
The police are yet to ascertain whether the children were being brought to the shelter home or were being brought to be trafficked. As of now, 156 children (88 boys and 68 girls) have been housed in the government shelter in Palakkad after the child welfare committee took down their statements.
Another 124 boys have been shifted to Pezhumkara government home and 175 kids, 161 girls and 14 infant boys, have been shifted to Providence home, a home for the destitute run by nuns in Malampuzha.
Father Jose, chairperson, Child Welfare committee, Palakkad, said, "We have requested that the police investigate the matter. We are in touch with the police in the states these children belong. We are trying to get the addresses so that we can help trace their homes."
Obviously, there is more than what meets the eye.
The 123 boys, who were intercepted at Palakkad railway station, have been housed in the government boys' home in Malappuram. These children also were carrying ID cards of an orphanage in Malappuram. Investigations are on to confirm the veracity of the orphanage.
The collector added, "We are trying to trace where the children were actually being taken."
He has issued orders that until the probe has not been completed, the children will be taken care of by the government.
Kerala Police has filed an FIR under the Juvenile Justice Act and begun investigations. The collector is now seeking Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's intervention in rehabilitating these children back to their homes.