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Mumbai or Mau? the journey continues

IT IS difficult to read their faces, for they show little signs of their feelings yet. The smiles that you see are in all probability forced and the sorrows you know have always been there.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 01:03 IST

IT IS difficult to read their faces, for they show little signs of their feelings yet. The smiles that you see are in all probability forced and the sorrows you know have always been there.

That is what one felt watching these 10 destiny’s children, who landed at the Charbagh Railway Station on Sunday. Originally belonging to UP, they are the child labourers the Juvenile Aid Police Unit (JAPU) of Maharashtra rescued from various parts of Mumbai in the last three months. Out of the ten children, six belong to Mau, two to Gorakhpur and one each to Bhadohi and Jaunpur.

Now, they shall spend some anxious days at Kishore Bal Grih on Mohaan Road here, before being sent to their respective native place after requisite inquiries. What after all awaits them? Doting parents, lots of goodies, schools or the same old scenario that forced them to take the journey to strange and hostile terrains. You know what it was — sheer hunger, the failure of their parents to make two ends meet. Officials accompanying the kids say most of them were sent to Mumbai by their parents themselves. In some cases middlemen were also involved. However, a few had gone on their own resolve.

The children, nine boys and a girl, are aged between 10-14. “These children were mostly engaged in the ‘zari’ industry or worked as helpers at various places. The places that they stayed in were unhealthy too. A few of them were street beggars as well,” says one of the JAPU officials accompanying the kids.
A ten-member team of JAPU and Pratham, a Mumbai-based NGO which actively involved with this project, has bought these children to Lucknow.

Police official RV Sarvodaya, who is heading the JAPU team, says, “Maharashtra government has decided to make Mumbai child labour free. Under this project JAPU is rescuing child labourers and sending them to their respective states. We have bought 10 children to Lucknow to start with.”
Raj Kumar, one of the children belonging to Mau, says, “I did not study, so my brother took me to Mumbai and I started working. I worked at a pani-puri stall.” These children earned nominal wages ranging anywhere between Rs 700-2000 per month.
Bharat Omprakash Mishra says, “I used to stay at the platform in Mumbai, sleep there and eat there. I used to work in Bhopal but my parents had come to Mumbai from Bhadohi, so I had gone to meet them there. However, I could not find them and while returning to Bhopal the police caught me and then sent me back here.”

In the past three months around 17,000 child labourers belonging to Bihar have been sent back to their homes.

Interestingly, the children were sent to Lucknow with great care. Guarding each child was a cop. Also, there were members of Pratham, Mumbai. The JAPU cops have instructions that they will return to Mumbai only after each and every child has been handed over to their respective families.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 01:03 IST