After NCST intervenes, Maharashtra district officials swear to rescue tribal children sold into bonded labour

SPs swear to form rescue teams in 15 days, DMs say will issue cards, ensure govt benefits as soon as possible

January 28, 2023 01:34 am | Updated 01:34 am IST - New Delhi

District officials from Nashik and Ahmednagar appeared before the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) in New Delhi on Friday. The panel had called for their arrest for failing to appropriately act in multiple cases, related to children of the Katkari community being sold into bonded labour for as little as ?5,000 and one sheep. Over 30 children have reportedly been affected.??

District Magistrates (DMs) and Superintendents of Police (SPs) in both districts submitted affidavits before the NCST, which had issued warrants for their arrest while exercising its powers as a civil court.?

Rakesh Ola, SP (Ahmednagar), and Shahaji Umap, SP (Nashik Rural), in their affidavits, swore that they would form dedicated rescue teams to track and rescue all such children of the Katkari community, a Scheduled Tribe, and other Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) trapped in the bonded labour racket within 15 days.

While issuing the warrants for their arrest earlier this month, the NCST had noted that less than half a dozen of the missing children had been found. The panel also pulled up the district officials for not invoking charges under child labour laws and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the FIRs they had registered. It had also pointed out that not all cases had been registered as FIRs.??

In their affidavits, the SPs added that they will thoroughly look into the bonded labour racket and register cases as and when required in all such matters, further swearing to coordinate with each other on these cases. Both have submitted that they will send a detailed action-taken report to the Commission within 15 days.?

Moreover, Gangadharan D., Nashik DM, and Rajendra B. Bhosale, Ahmednagar DM, in their affidavits, submitted that they would ensure that all such children being rescued are rehabilitated as per State and Central social welfare measures, are provided compensation under the SC/ST Act and child labour laws within 15 days, and necessary action is taken to prevent any such incident in the future.?

The DMs added that they would also ensure that all members of the Katkari community, and other PVTGs are issued caste certificates, Aadhaar cards, ration cards and Voter IDs in their respective districts as soon as possible. They also submitted that they would ensure all government benefits reach them in time.?

The DMs, who are also Collectors, went on to submit that they will provide compensation to already rescued children within three days and send a report on this to the Commission within five days.?

Further, they said that a detailed action-taken report in relation to this racket will be submitted to NCST in 15 days.?

The Hindu had reported on Monday that the Commission had called for the arrest of these four district officials after they failed to appear before it despite being summoned.?

On Friday, the officials appeared before the NCST and submitted their affidavits, vowing to act as soon as possible. ?

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