Amid allegations of human trafficking over children brought from Jharkhand and West Bengal to orphanages in Kerala, state authorities have decided to send as many as 186 back home.
A decision to return 120 children to Jharkhand, 59 to West Bengal and seven to Bihar was taken by district child welfare committees in Palakkad and Malappuram, and the first batch will be leaving on Monday.
The children were among the 466 from West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand taken into custody by the Railway Protection Force on May 24 and 25 in Palakkad, soon after they had got off trains enroute to orphanages in Kozhikode and Malappuram. Many of them were found to be returning to the orphanages after the summer vacation, but others, including the 186 above, were new children being brought by agents with the promise of enrolling them at the Mohammed Abdurahiman Memorial Orphanage at Mukkom in Kozhikode and Anwarul Huda Orphanage at Vettathoor in Malappuram.
With mandatory documents and affidavits from parents and respective state governments as well as tickets in many cases missing, the new children had been handed over to district child welfare committees.
The state police had dubbed it an incident of human trafficking. The railway police had arrested eight persons on charges of trafficking. Of them, six were Arabic teachers (three from Bihar, two from Bengal and one from Jharkhand). Besides, the parent of a boy at the Mukkom orphanage and the uncle of another were held.
Later, the state Crime Branch had arrested two others, Mohammed Shakeel, the husband of a Jharkhand woman employed at the Mukkom orphanage, and a cook from Jharkhand working at the institute.
Palakkad Child Welfare Committee (CWC) chairman Fr Jose Paul said the children were being sent back for want of proper documents. “We will hand them over to the CWC of Godda district in Jharkhand. Officials there said their government is planning a special residential school for the children.”
In Godda district, from where 216 children went this year alone to Mukkom, the news is being seen with despondency. From three children six years ago, there are now more than 300 between 4-15 years of age from Godda at the Mukkom orphanage. Following a directive by the deputy commissioner to profile all such children, the Godda district administration has tracked down 171 of them.
The reason for children heading to distant Kozhikode is simple. The quality of education provided at Mukkom is