Child trafficking: “Orphanage industry” under cloud.

published on June 1, 2014
Arrest of eight persons from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal at Palakkad in connection with alleged child trafficking has brought the state’s private orphanages under a cloud again.

The accused were arrested on May 26 after 589 children below age 12 and belonging to Bihar and Jharkhand they brought were detained by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) at the Palakkad Railway station. According to the accused, the children were being brought to be admitted in two orphanages in Kozhikode and Malappuram.

According to RPF, the children who included even infants did not have required documents like proper admission papers, certificates related to birth, age, income etc. Children were supposed to be admitted to Mukkam Muslim Orphanage in Kozhikode and Vettathur Anwarul Orphanage in Malappuram.

The arrested adults belonged to the villages of Bhagalpur and Bankha districts in Bihar, Khodda district in Jharkhand and Malda in West Bengal.  They were held when they arrived in two batches on Sunday by the Guwahati-Thiruvananthapuram Express and the Patna-Ernakulam Express. The adults were booked under Section 370 (5) of IPC for child trafficking.

In June last year, another orphanage in Kozhikode run by a Muslim religious organization was under a cloud when a 17 year-old inmate was abandoned by an Arab national two weeks after marrying her. The girl and her mother complained that the marriage with the 28 year-old Arab who had a wife in Gulf was forcibly conducted by the orphanage authorities in violation of the Child Marriage (Prevention) Act, taking money from the Arab. Various misdeeds including 8 cases of sexual abuse were reported from various private orphanages in Kerala last year. A subsequent investigation led to the closure of about 60 orphanages ordered by the State Board of Control for Orphanages for various lapses. Kerala has more than 2200 registered orphanages and recent years have seen the propping up of a large number of unregistered centres which have been set up with an eye on the charity flowing in from abroad especially the Gulf countries. Mushrooming of orphanages has also led to a scamper by their managements to get sufficient number of inmates.

Thanks to the state’s increasing prosperity, there has been a growing dearth of poor children requiring asylum in orphanages which led to the “orphanage industry” to get professional agents for recruiting kids from poorer states like Bihar or Jharkhand.

The Mukkam Muslim orphanage authorities admitted that the children were being brought from northern states to be admitted to their organization and the practice was going on for more than a decade.

V Muhammed Haji of the orphanage said most of the children detained had been staying in the organization and were returning after spending vacation in their native places.  He denied the charge that the children did not have required documents. He said the person who had all the documents fled from the Palakkad railway station terrified by the police. He however admitted that about 150 children who went for vacation in April stayed back at their native places while 285 new children in the detained batch were relatives of those who had been staying here. The RPF and District administration have taken over the detained children and sent to government owned juvenile homes under the supervision of District Child Welfare Committee. Haji also said hundreds of poor children were being given accommodation and food besides good education by the orphanage.

One of the inmates even won civil service examinations last year.  In Kozhikode, a prominent Sunni organization has been running for about a decade “Kashmir House”, an orphanage exclusively for more than 300 children of parents killed in terror incidents in Jammu & Kashmir. The orphanage is funded by Gulf-based organizations.

“There will be investigation if money was paid to those who recruited these children” said K Ramachandran, Palakad District.

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