Not looking his age cost 18-year-old Sandip Vanwasi dearly.On October 21, Navghar police officials raided a few hotels and shops in Bhayander, from where they rescued child workers and under-age employees. Vanwasi was among them, and was picked up, as he looks younger than his actual age, according to his birth certificate.
After the rescue, the children were handed over to a children’s home in Ulhasnagar no 5. Following the incident, Rajesh Halwai, the owner of the Shri Siddhivinayak Sweets and Bhelpuri Shop where Sandip worked, asked his mother to send documents to prove that he was an adult.
He said, “Sandip is short and is on the healthier side. That’s why the police mistook him for a child worker. No sooner had police raided our shop, than I contacted Sandip’s mother to send me the documents proving he was above 18. She sent them and I went to the children’s home. But authorities there told me that they wouldn’t let Sandip go unless his parents came in person to collect him.”
Meanwhile, his father was suffering from a skin disease and was on his deathbed. He expressed his wish to see his son before he passed. So his mother Susheela set out from Jaunpur, their native village in Uttar Pradesh, to bring her son home. Tragedy struck the family when Susheela’s husband Santaram died while she was on her way to Mumbai.
Susheela Vanwasi said, “I hardly earn Rs 700 a month and look after my children and husband. I was not earning enough to feed everyone. So I had sent Sandip to Mumbai when he turned 18, to earn and send some money to pay for his father’s medicines.”
Sadly, Susheela found out from relatives that since there was no elder to perform her husband’s last rites, the village headman let the body flow away with the river Gomti, to avoid expenses. Sandip had missed his father’s last rites due to the confusion that led to him being lodged in a children’s home.
In such cases, when a child is rescued from a work place, he/she is first presented before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and a medical check-up is done. Only then is he to be brought to a children’s home. Policemen had directly brought the children to the home.
Prakash Balutkar, superintendent of Children’s Home, Ulhasnagar no 5, said, “The eight children were brought here on October 21. The police did not present the children in front of the committee, nor did they get a medical check-up done. Our job is to give protection to the children. We don’t know why the police delayed presenting the children to the CWC.”
Had the police not rescued Sandip, he might have made it on time to fulfil his father’s last wish of seeing his son. Dinkar Pingle, senior inspector of Navghar police station, said, “Yes, our team rescued eight child labours from Bhayander area. Presenting the children to the CWC got delayed due to a technical problem. Anyway, the kids are safe in the children’shome.”
Sandip is still at the children’s home. According to Navghar police officials, the eight children went for their medical at Ulhasnagar Civil Hospital yesterday.
They will be presented to the CWC on November 15. The parents have been asked to be present before the CWC on November 22.