15 Feb 2010

Domestic Child Labour rescued on 10th February 2010, Kolkata

A Domestic Child Labour Rescue case (which happened in the Apartment next to one of our CHILDLINE Offices’)

The CHILDLINE, East Regional Resource Centre was about to finish the activities for the day around 6pm, when they saw a child around 11-12 years old giving a body massage to a 50-year old. Additionally they observed that the boy was involved in other household activities. Immediately they took photographs and called up the CHILDLINE Kolkata team for the rescue, who arrived within half an hour. The case was also discussed with the SCF.

The local Bhowanipur Police Station, who refused to take the case and send any officer until preliminary investigation was done by CHILDLINE. The next step was to contact the Officer-In-Charge of Women’s Grievance Cell & Juvenile Unit, Kolkata Police on phone. She advised to submit a complain petition to the local police station and inform them if action was not taken and the same was done, immediately. In the meanwhile, the CWC Chairperson, Kolkata was also contacted and briefed who agreed to talk to the police, in case of non-cooperation.

On receiving the complaint the Sub Inspector (SI) said that CHILDLINE may go now but they would take action, only later on. The CWC Chairperson Kolkata was contacted and connected to talk to the Sub Inspector. The SI, now called up the Officer in Charge (who was out of office) and said that we need to wait for him to come and then only decision could be taken. The wait was for an hour and half. At around 9:15 pm the detailed discussion with him, followed suit. Initially he too was reluctant to send any official for rescue but on our insistence he agreed to send two inspectors to the apartment.

Thus around 9:30 pm the rescue team reached the apartment. The door was opened by the child himself. There was a man of about 52 years old who was partially blind and his wife. They said that the boy is here for last 10-15 days and taking care of the visually impaired person and is not involved in any other household activities. On talking to the child he said that he is 17-18 years old but visibly, he was hardly 11-12 years. But he said that he does all the household work for the family. Police took all the details and left the household. They refused to rescue until the age is verified.

CHILDLINE team came back to the police station and insisted them to lodge a FIR and rescue the child but they disagreed. Our team, insisted that a FIR be booked under sec 26 of JJ Act which is cognizable offence and the child be rescued. They asked us to go back and come back next day and get the updates. It was around 10 'O' Clock at night.

Then we called up Mr. Safraraz Ahmed Khan, Lecturer NUJS and also our consultant in the Legal Intervention Programme. He was really very proactive and agreed to come to the police station. He had a long interaction with the Officer in Charge. OC’s point of view was that although he is well aware about CHILDLINE and its activities but he would not take up the rescue operations as the child says he is above 14 years and Child Labour (P & R) Act is not applicable here. Mr. Khan insisted about Sec 26 of JJ Act and on constant insistence he ultimately got convinced and decision was taken by the OC to rescue the child.

Thus the child was ultimately rescued at around 11:15 pm at night. The accused along the neighbourers came to the police station and wanted to know about the complainant (CIF) but the police didn’t reveal it. (Although the neighbourers saw us sitting with the OC and most probably recognized us).

Ultimately the FIR was lodged under sec 26 JJ Act along with Sec 14 Child Labour (P&R) Act. It was about midnight when the police official took the child to CINI ASHA (Collaborative Organization) and handed over the child to them for Shelter. At the end of the day the OC was absolutely convinced and he appreciated all of us for our effort and ensured help in future.
Kolkata CHILDLINE team along with Mr. Sarfaraz Ahmed Khan was also present till the end. The next day the child was to be placed before the court where CHILDLINE would provide a lawyer who would plead before the magistrate to shift the case to CWC. (OC said that as this is his first such case he would seek magistrates direction before shifting the case to CWC. We also didn’t want to agitate him as our main purpose of rescuing the child was over.)