Gruesome accident blows lid off child labour at Dongri remand home
13-yr-old's fingers were nearly crushed while cleaning a chapati-making machine; superintendent admits to making minors work and operate machinery due to staff shortage, but calls it 'training'
A 13-year-old boy, taken to the Dongri remand home to keep him from being forced into child labour, nearly lost four of his fingers when he was forced to do exactly what he was supposedly being saved from.
The fingers on Kiran Sathavali’s (name changed) right hand were allegedly crushed when he was forced to clean a roti maker in the remand home’s kitchen on December 14 and doctors say that while they have managed to save three fingers, they might have to amputate the fourth.
Authorities at the remand home claim that Sathavali was not forced to do anything and had started fiddling with the machine on his own. However, the fact that the teen was asked to make up a story that his fingers had been crushed when he was trying to close a door and the superintendent’s admission that children are made to operate machines because the home is short-staffed have raised red flags.
Dr Rajat Gupta from JJ Hospital with 13-year-old Kiran Sathavali. The doctor said that while they have been able to save three of the teen’s fingers, they may have to amputate his little finger
Sathavali, whose mother is a construction worker and father has passed away, had run away from his home in Malad and was found near Telangana by workers from an NGO, Bal Kalyan. To ensure that he was not forced into child labour, begging or other such activities, the NGO sent him to the Dongri remand home a month ago.
On December 14, Sathivali was asked to clean the chapatti maker and four of his fingers were crushed under a moving part in the machine. Only a cook was present in the kitchen at the time of the incident.
The records of JJ Hospital, where he was rushed, however, say that Sathivali’s fingers had been crushed when they were caught in the door. Asked about this discrepancy, Sathivali said “I was asked by certain remand home officials to say that my fingers had been caught in the door but the reality is that they were crushed when I was cleaning the chapati-making machine.”
Shankar Jadhav, superintendent of Dongri remand home, said, “The boy’s hand had come in the chapati-making machine, but we had not forced him to clean it or anything. He went on his own and put his hand inside the machine, because of which his fingers got crushed. We have trained some boys from the remand home to operate the machine as we have less staff members here, but this boy had come to the home just a month back and had not been trained.” “We train inmates in envelope-making, gardening, chapati-making etc for 2-3 hours a day so that they acquire some skills,” he added. Asked why no one had been watching over the machine and the children in the home to prevent such accidents, Jadhav said, “It was the fault of the cook, Vikram Kalambe, and so we have suspended him and filed a police complaint against him for negligence. While the boy’s father is dead, we had contacted the mother after he was brought to the home a month ago, but she hasn’t come to take her son back yet.”
Sonali Gupta, clinical and child psychologist said, “The incident must have caused severe trauma to the child and he must be taken to a psychologist as he must be afraid. The child needs a lot of care and support even if his fingers are saved. Also, he must be taken to an NGO instead of the place where he suffered the trauma as he may experience more fear in the remand home. The emo-tional toll that such cases take is often much higher than the physical pain”
State women and child welfare minister Vidya Thakur said “ Children in the remand home, who are 16 years or above, can be trained to make chapatis and other such things and children below that age are taught to make envelopes and trained in gardening etc so that they can do some work on their own later.” Talking about Sathivali, she said, “He was 16 years old but he went to the chapati maker on his own while playing, he was not asked to do that by anyone.”
Dr Rajat Kapoor, a plastic surgeon, who operated on Sathivali at JJ Hospital said, “The boy was brought in around 10 am on December 14 and four fingers on his right hand were badly injured. We operated on him and managed to save three of his fingers, but the little finger has been injured badly and the blood is not circulating properly there.” “We have put rods in his figures as of now. We will observe him for three weeks or so and may have to amputate his little finger if needed. Full recovery will take at least 6-8 weeks, after which we will put him on physiotherapy,” he added.