Maid who threw child was trafficked herself

SMD reveals how the 13 year-old maid who made news for chucking her employer's baby off the 4th floor, was trafficked from Nepal; officials vow to take action

After MiD DAY's report on how kids who were being brought to the city to work as child labourers were made to alight near Nandurbab district the night before, ('550 kids disappear into thin air', September 10), another shocking instance of child trafficking has come to light.

This time, it is the case of 13 year-old Nahida Shaikh (name changed), who made news for throwing her employer's one-and-half year old infant, Rehan, from the fourth floor residence of a Byculla building on August 21.

Shaikh, who is presently lodged in the female shelter room of Dongri Children's Home, narrated her ordeal to the child counsellors there, who spoke to her after reading Saturday's Mid DAY report on child trafficking.

Cheated in love
In her statement, given to the child guidance counsellors at the remand home on August 22, Shaikh revealed that she is the second of four siblings, came to Mumbai hardly a fortnight ago, and hails from Ghode village in Rohtak district of Nepal where she had to quit school after class 3, as her father, a farmer, could not support her studies. She later developed a liking for a daily wage worker, Mashi (23).

Mashi promised to marry her on the condition that she would accompany him to Mumbai. In the second week of August, the two eloped and crossed the border. Mashi accompanied Nahida to Muzzafarpur junction in Bihar and asked her to continue her journey to Mumbai, saying he would join her after few days. He gave her the contact details of his close friend Mazar, also from Nepal, who was based in Mumbai telling her he would meet her at Byculla railway station.

Shaikh told counsellors that on reaching Kurla Terminus, she alighted from the train (she said she did not remember its name) and was waiting at the station, when a woman approached her and took her to Byculla railway station, where she met Mazar.

Mazar took her to a lodge in the vicinity and forced her to watch porn films before sexually abusing her. She was locked in the room for three days and subjected to regular sexual abuse. On the fourth day, Mazar dumped her at Byculla railway station.

Dumped in Mumbai
Lost in the city, Shaikh was spotted crying by a beggar woman, who took her to Aqeel Abdul Rehman Khakra (47), a builder who lives in Honda Mansion at Sir JJ Road in Byculla.

Hardly a week into her job as a domestic maid, Shaikh incurred the wrath of the builder's wife for breaking a glass plate. Apparently, she also slapped the girl, who vowed to take revenge. The next day, Shaikh her baby from the balcony under the pretext of playing with him. Luckily, the child escaped miraculously and is recovering at a hospital.

The Nagpada police arrested Shaikh under section 307 (attempt to murder) of Indian Penal Code and sent her to the Dongri remand home.

When contacted, Dongri remand home superintendent S A Jadhav confirmed these details. He said, "Our counsellors have recorded her statement. She is undergoing psychological evaluation at JJ Hospital. She seemed depressed, and in an impulsive mood when brought in, but she is improving now."

Mystery uncle
Today, Shaikh is the only juvenile accused in custody in a 400 square feet room she shares with 45 other minor girls, who are runaways. Surprisingly, two days after she was brought here, a man named Mohammed Shaikh claimed to be her distant uncle and pleaded before the Juvenile court to take her with him. The court refused to hand her over as he had no evidence to prove his statement and was not biologically related to Nahida.
Nahida is now being taught tailoring at classes conducted inside the remand home.

Advocate Minakshi Jaiswal, Chairman, Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, reacted sharply to this paper's findings. "I am shocked. I will ask for detailed reports from Nandurbar railway police and will ask officials from the women and child development department to probe the matter. The local collector too will be asked to look into this case. This is a serious matter and the administration is answerable to the people."

What qualifies as 'juvenile'?
Sadly, there seems to be little legislative will to tackle an endemic problem. Santosh Shinde, Chief Functionary, Bal Prafulta Child Rights Advocacy Initiative organisation, admitted, "Unfortunately, no policy has been laid down to tackle trafficking of juveniles. Also, the September 2, 2009 government resolution by the Labour department confuses the definition itself. The resolution defines juvenile as someone below the age of 14, while the Juvenile Justice Act extends it to 18 years."

"In the last year, neither the state nor the police machinery has carried out a single major crackdown against child trafficking. The problem has become rampant once again," he added.

Shinde said that studies conducted by his NGO have revealed that juveniles from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are used in zari and leather factories, while those from West Bengal are used in jewellery manufacturing units. Kids from Gujarat and Rajasthan are used in leather units, and those from Orissa and Jharkand are used as domestic help and at construction sites. Teenagers from Karnataka end up at hotels and canteens.

The modus operandi of the traffickers is to bring the juveniles to the city in a group by train, making them alight at railway stations in the outskirts. They then transport the kids by road to various locations. If a child is paid Rs 1,500 towards his labour charge, the agent gets a commission of Rs 200.

Probe on
Meanwhile the Bandra railway police team reached Nandurbar on Saturday morning and have begun its probe. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central Zone) G M Bhandari said, "Our team has reached Nandurbar and we are waiting for them to return."

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