Kochi pastor held for trafficking after RPF rescues 12 minor girls from train

Published on Jul 29, 2022 12:26 AM IST

The minor girls were allegedly being trafficked from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, officials from NGO Childline said.

A senior police officer said a well-organised trafficking racket was supplying destitute children from impoverished regions of north and north-east regions to Kerala. (HT Archives)
A senior police officer said a well-organised trafficking racket was supplying destitute children from impoverished regions of north and north-east regions to Kerala. (HT Archives)
By, Thiruvananthapuram

A Kochi-based pastor has been arrested in connection with the trafficking of minor girls, officials in the know of the matter said on Thursday.

The incident came to light after the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel rescued 12 minor girls, from Okha-Ernakulam Express when the train reached Kozhikode railway station on Wednesday night. The RPF personnel handed over the children to the child welfare committeewho later shifted them to an after care home (women) in Kozhikode.

The minor girls were allegedly being trafficked from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, officials from NGO Childline said.Police identified the pastor as Jacob Varghese. The pastor who runs an orphanage, Karuna Charitable Trust, in Kochi’s Perumbavur area has been booked under human trafficking charges (Section 370) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Childline officials said that they will file a separate complaint against the orphanage under the Juvenile Justice Act.The children were rescued after a tip-off from some passengers and the ticket examiner, said a Childline official.

“Among the rescued children, 11 belong to Banswara region in Rajasthan and one girl is from Madhya Pradesh. All the children are in 9-12 age group and most of them have no identification cards. They were tired and scared,” said district child welfare committee chairman P Abdul Nasar.

He said four persons were travelling with the children and one of them had claimed to be the father of one of the girls.Out of the four people, three have been arrested,including an agent identified as Lokesh Kumar, said police.

Chairman Nasar said that the girls will be given counselling and their medical examination will also be held. “Police have contacted parents of some of the girls. The parents reportedly told the police that the girls were being sent to Kochi for education and after fulfilling all the formalities, they will be sent back to their parents,” Nasar said. Bansawra police superintendent Rajesh Kumar Meena, however, said that he was unaware of any such development and that no agency contacted him so far.

A senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, said a well-organised trafficking racket was supplying destitute children from impoverished regions of north and north-east regions to Kerala.

Significantly, religious sanction resulted in more orphanages popping up in north Kerala and there were also conversion charges against some of them.

In 2014, a big inter-state racket was busted after police rescued 580 children brought in different batches in Palakkad from West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Odisha and Bihar. Later two Muslim orphanages in Malappuram and Kozhikode were booked. Though the Kerala high court suggested a CBI probe into trafficking in 2015, it failed to make much headway.

(With inputs from Jaipur bureau)

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