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Legalities delay child labourers-parents reunion Sunday, June 24, 2001
The Times of India News Service
AHMEDABAD, June 23: Thirteen-year-old Shamsad Hussain clung on to his father for dear life. All pleadings by his present guardians - Childline, a national 24-hour free phone emergency service for distressed children - failed to convince the teenager. After much ado, a tearful farewell separated the child and his parents from remote Sitamarhi district of Bihar.
Shamsad is one among the dozen minor labourers rescued last month from an embroidery unit in Chandola under the Dani Limda police station who are still waiting to be reunited with their families. Standing between them and the family reunion is the long list of legalities that are yet to be thrashed out by the state government machinery.
It's a typical case of so near yet so far for the 12 children - aged between eight and 15 years - nine of whom belong to Muzaffarpur and Sitamarhi districts of Bihar. The remaining three are from villages of UP and West Bengal.
The initiative taken by Samast Bangali Samaj - a local voluntary group based in Ratan Pole in Ahmedabad - brought parents of the nine children hailing from Bihar, UP and West Bengal to Ahmedabad on Monday.
"Ever since they landed here they have been yearning to be with their children, but things are progressing too slowly to their liking. We have put them up at our association office, and are helping them in every possible manner," says Raufbhai Bangali, president of the association.
On Friday, the aggrieved parents from Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh went to the Ahmedabad district collectorate to expedite the "release" of their sons. Their wards had been rescued on May 23 after a tip-off sent members of Childline along with the police to the premises of an embroidery workshop owned by Mohammad Shakeel and Mohammad Hanan at Chandola.
Abid Hussain of Mahua Gachi village in Sitamarhi district of Bihar says: "We live a hand-to-mouth existence working as agriculture labourers for the landed in our village. About a year ago, Shakeel had approached me and others in our village that he would take our children to Ahmedabad and teach them embroidery. Thereafter he would employ them. I thought this was an excellent chance to allow my son Samshad Hussain earn a living and give him a headstart in life."
While the same story is repeated by Shanti Devi, mother of Ranjit, and Mohammed Afzal, father of Mohammed Shamim (8). All the parents repent their decision. "We will never let our children go away from us. They are sons of Bihar and that's where they will grow up," said Shankar Dhobi, whose son Vijay is with Childline. "Just let us have our children back, and we will leave for our villages immediately. We may be poor, but safety of our children is paramount," said Anwar Ali of Mahranya village of UP.
Rajesh Bhatt of Childline told TOI: "We will be only too happy to reunite the children with their parents, but first the repatriation process must be okayed by the collectorate. Till all formalities are complete, these children are our responsibility."
To this Raufbhai Bangali says: "My talk with the collector has been very encouraging, and he has promised to help these poor farmers. I have suggested that a six-member team (with two representatives each from district administration, Childline and Samast Bengali Samaj) accompany the parents and their children back home to Bihar, UP and West Bengal."
He adds, "This will ensure safety of the children and completion of formalities like establishing the children and their parents' identities. But, now the need of the hour is to bring this issue to a logical conclusion quickly so that these poor farmers can get back to their agricultural activities along with their children before monsoon sets in."
News Source : Times Of India News Service [ Lightning News ]