It’s been almost a fortnight since 456 children, aged between 5 and 15, hailing from Jharkhand and Bihar, landed in Palakkad raising questions regarding the manner in which young children were being herded across the country, ostensibly as future inmates of certain orphanages in Kerala. It later emerged that out of this lot, 186 children had been in an orphanage in Kozhikode for over a year and had left for Jharkhand in April and while returning brought another 280 children along to join the orphanage. After scrutiny, it was found that only 186 children had proper documents. Clearly, the rot runs deep as the next day, 123 more children arrived from West Bengal, bound for another orphanage in Malappuram.
The destitution certificates issued by the village offices in Jharkhand, birth certificates and the orphanage admission forms came in the same handwriting. To put things in perspective, one needs to look at the economics behind the running of orphanages. There is also the little matter of a grant the state government gives to orphans—Rs1,000 a month per child, in addition to free ration and a dole for education. It’s another matter that the law does not permit giving such dole to orphans from other states.
In a state that turns to migrants from other states for labour, it seems a short cut to find orphans, a category in short supply in Kerala, has been stumbled upon. According to the state police, it is a clear case of human trafficking as there were no proper documents. It must be remembered that India is part of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which recognises the rights of the child. With the state home minister himself terming it a case of human trafficking, the bonafide intentions of the agencies running the orphanages have come under a cloud. The onus is on them to clear the air.