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What is wrong in sending poor children to Orphanage, wonder parents of children returned from Kerala

By Zaidul Haque, TwoCircles.net,

Kolkata/Malda: On 24th May, more than 450 children were booked at Palakkad station of Kerala by Railway protection Force, fearing large scale child trafficking. The children, later it was known, were going to Mohammed Abdurahiman Memorial Orphanage at Mukkom in Kozhikode and Anwarul Huda Orphanage at Vettathoor in Malappuram of Kerala for studying.

While some students were returning to the orphanage after spending summer vacation at home, many children were new and were going to be enrolled and were new.

Shafiqul Alam with his son Shahin Akhter, Firoj Akhter in front of his home at Makaiya in Malda.
Shafiqul Alam with his son Shahin Akhter, Firoj Akhter in front of his home at Makaiya in Malda.

The railway police had arrested eight persons, who were accompanying them, on charges of trafficking. Two of them, Abu Bakar and Maulana Mansur Rahman, were from West Bengal’s Malda district and are teaching at Anwarul Huda Orphanage.

The have been charged with trafficking the poor children from West Bengal’s Malda district. 58 students of Malda have already returned home. A special CID team of Kerala has now reached Malda to investigate the matter as to why the children are going to orphanages of Kerala in such large scale.

The mainstream media presented the news in such a way as if large scale child trafficking is going on, and worse, once it became known that they were going to Orphanage some people tried to give a twist as if they were going for terror training.

The fact is that forced by abject poverty these parents send their children to Orphanages, where they not only get food much better than home, but also education. TwoCirlces.net caught with parents of some of the 58 children who have returned home, and they all had similar stories to narrate.

Here we present the story of one Shafiqul Alam: Shafiqul Islam is a daily wage labourer residing at Makaiya village, about 60 KM from Malda town under Devipur Grampanchayet, near Bihar-Bengal border. He said that besides him, he has an old ailing mother at home, wife and three children. He is a BPL card holder, and lives in a mud-house. He had a small piece of land but that got submerged in water after the local Fulhar River changed its course.

He said the money he earns from daily wage is sufficient to feed six people, and hence sending their children was out of question. He knew about Maulana Mansur of Malda who was teaching at Anwarul Huda Orphanage of Malappuram. He approached the Orphanage administration to seek admission for his ward last year through him last year.

His second son Shahin Akter (9) thus got admission in Anwarul Huda Orphanage, where besides study, he was also getting lodging and fooding for free. Shafiqul said that a year Sachin had come home and appeared happy and narrated the stories from the Orphanage and what all he was learning. He said that Sachin told him that in the morning they learn Arabic and by 10 AM go to an English medium AMUP School in Vettathur for general studies, where he was currently in Standard II.

Shafiqul was so happy that he decided to send his eldest son Firoj Akhter (11) too this year.

Initially two children were found without tickets, among 58 children and hence they were stopped. Although they brought eleven thousand rupees from Anwarul Huda Orphanage to pay as penalty, but meanwhile police and media had come, who started interrogating the children.

Shafiqul said that Police and media persons asked their children whether he was `Bengali’ or `Bangladeshi’. His children could not understand what was going on as they are only 9 and 11 years old. They don’t know English or Hindi and never been heard `Bengali’ or `Bangladeshi’ in their remote village. They were really scared by repeated questioning, he said.

According to Shafiqul when the police asked for documents to prove that they are Indian citizens, teacher Maulana Mansur showed certificate of BDO of Ratua Block in Malda district, but they refused to accept that.

Shafiqul has now alleged that the police and Child welfare Committee of Malda are now pressurizing him to withdraw their wards from Anwarul Huda Orphanage. He also informed that on June 26, an investigating team from Kerala visited their village and they presented the facts to them.

He is now worried for his children’s education and future. If they are not allowed to send his sons to the orphanage, they may have to drop from school as he would not be able to afford the cost of uniform, tuition, books and stationery, he says.

He says he is poor and illiterate and never even dreamt of sending children to English medium schools. He acknowledged to Orphanage authority who were not only ready to admit one of his sons, but this year was ready to admit another one for free.

An angry Shafiqul wonders that even rich people send their wards to study in good schools in different states, but questions are being raised when poor children are going and someone is offering them free education.

TCN also talked to Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee of Malda, Hassan Ali Shah. He sounded worried about the activities of administration of both Kerala and West Bengal. He said that now that the news has come to light, Kerala Government is pressurizing them to call back all the children, but the bigger problem is who will now be responsible for the education of these children.

Hasan Ali said that he informed both the State administration and the Investigating team from Kerala that all the children from Malda who have taken admission in orphanages in Kerala come from very poor families and hence either State government should take responsibility of their education or Kerala government should allow them to go back to the orphanage.

Ali lamented that the conditions of the minority community in rural parts of the state is deplorable as they lack even the basic infrastructure to provide proper education.