The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) to submit an inquiry report into the case of six minors, who were allegedly trafficked from Odisha and Chhattisgarh last year to work as labourers in Goa. On August 18 last year, the commission had received a complaint from an NGO, which alleged that six minors, two of them girls, were released by Mumbai’s Dongri Observation Home without following standard operating procedure (SOP). While the girls were sent to the home by the CWC on August 5 last year, they were released four days later.
The commission is now probing why the CWC, despite recording the statements of the children, in which they had admitted to being taken to Goa for fishing work by a handler, did not submit its findings to police to investigate the trafficking angle. The complaint was filed by Pratham NGO, which had rescued the children from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), on August 4 last year. The six children were aged between 13 and 17 years. While three were from Odisha, the rest belonged to Chhattisgarh. They were rescued when they alighted at LTT station to take another train to Goa.
In the last hearing of the case, conducted late March, the commission had questioned the CWC officer on the SOP that was followed in this case. Taking cognisance of lapses on part of the CWC, the commission has now asked it to conduct a detailed probe. “It seems that routine procedure was not carried in this case. We are afraid the children may have been trafficked for child labour,” said commission chairperson Pravin Gughe.
Navnath Kamble, attached with the NGO, said: “We had informed the Government Railway Police in Kurla about the incident. When the CWC questioned the children, they said they were being taken to Goa for labour work.” One of the children also allegedly told the NGO that his sister had been sold in Delhi. Kamble said the CWC was instructed to admit the children in Dongri Observation Home. “No order was issued against the handler, who was accompanying them. Four days later, the home released the children without informing us. They claim the parents had come to pick up the children. It is against the procedure,” he said.
The NGO’s complaint alleges that no inquiry has been conducted in the trafficking case so far. “We do not know who were these people who took the children,” the complaint said. Gughe said: “We are also going to hold a survey, in collaboration with the government in various districts, to understand the prevalence of child labour. Initial findings through district officials suggest that not many child labourers exist. How is it possible that there is nearly negligible child labour around us?”