In a shocking revelation, the district administration of Kolhapur has come to know of around 31 boys — ranging from four years to 10 years of age — being sold off to the shepherd community living in Radhanagari taluka, 60 kms from Kolhapur. The boys were sold off for between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000 each.
The children belong to a tribe called Wanar Mari and 11 families from this tribe reside in a small hamlet named Bhairi Bhambara in Radhanagari taluka, and earn their livelihood by hunting, collecting honey and other things from the forest. However, they live in utmost poverty, driving the fathers to sell their sons for paltry sums to the shepherd community.
Following the information, the administration and police together rescued 31 boys from various places in Radhanagari taluka in the last week. “We received the information last week and immediately took action,” said Sameer Shingate, sub-divisional officer, Radhanagari taluka.
“Following a tip-off, with the help of local police, we questioned some families who had sold their children, which led us to the kids. So far we have managed to rescue 31 children from the fringe areas of Radhanagari taluka and they have been shifted to orphanages,” added Shingate.
The rescued children have never been to school and many are addicted to tobacco. “When we rescued them, we found packets of tobacco and lime in their possession. We need to rehabilitate them as soon as possible,” observed Shingate.
However, the family situation is so desperate that the administration cannot risk handing them over to their parents, as they might be sold again.
“We have started counselling sessions and the children will be enrolled in schools and stay here,” K S Angadi, superintendent of Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan Children Home, said. “Even the families have agreed to let them stay in the orphanage,” he added.
Lahu Dinkar (35), a parent who sold his five-year-old son for Rs 5,000, said, “I have one son from my first wife who died and two daughters from second wife. It was difficult to look after three children so I sold my son.”
Dinkar works in a jaggery plant, but his income is too little. “We have ordered an inquiry into the matter and the police are checking if there is a racket involving selling of kids. They have been asked to take stern action against the culprits,” said Rajaram Mane, collector of Kolhapur district.
Surprisingly, there are no records of Wanar Mari tribe. To counter this, the administration is meeting the families on February 13 and February 14 to decide on their housing and employment. They will also decide the category in which this tribe can be placed.
“The custody of the rescued children will be with the district administration until the rehabilitation of their parents takes place,” said Mane. “We suspect a racket and probe is on by the police and the district administration,” Vijaysinh Jadhav, Superintendent of Police, Kolhapur, said.