in to defend the orphanages…attacked police officers for
registering cases and chastised Chennithala….They also hit out at him for ‘communalising’ the
issue...….Malayalam TV channels sent reporters to the children’s villages in Bihar
and Jharkhand…they had been “purchased” …for Rs 1,000 each to be sold at double the price to
The racism of Indians is best illustrated by observing how Indians behave with other Indians. North Indians despise South Indians and vice versa. The Indians from the North-East are despised by everyone else.
Kerala, by most measures, is a progressive state. Universal literacy, sympathy for the downtrodden, the (relatively speaking) liberation of women, these are all huge achievements and mallus are justifiably proud of this progress.
Unfortunately the child trafficking incident noted below highlights the racist, perverted and communal nature of some Keralites who know full well that the corrupt, vote-bank seeking politicians have their back. The only way forward that we can think of is to empower women. Women can make a difference (they are the only hope).
Also cheers to the Social Welfare Board and the (Kerala High) Court. Building (secular) institutions is what will help improve India and make it a modern nation. But still the stench of prejudice may still not go away.
The Kerala conundrum has become a cliché by now. Yet, it refuses to
die, with newer contradictions continuing to pop up every now and then
to remind us just how well and how badly Kerala is doing. The latest
scandal is the ‘orphan trade’ that has recently surfaced to rock the
Kerala has a peculiar labour scenario. Thanks to petro-prosperity and
the peculiar status-consciousness created by huge financial
remittances—estimated at Rs 60,000 crore last year—sent by its 2.5
million- strong community of Malayalees employed in the Gulf, there are
almost no takers in the state for blue-collar jobs. This is in spite of
the state’s high rate of unemployment.
Unsurprisingly, the state’s high
minimum wages have lured unskilled migrant labour by the drove even from
distant states such as Assam. The state that thrives on Gulf money has,
in effect, turned into a Gulf of sorts for migrants from other Indian
states, with their count touching 2.5 million now— the same number of
people from Kerala who are in the Gulf.
So while the state has the rare distinction of being the highest
exporter as well as importer of labour, an even more interesting
demographic phenomenon is that its number of immigrants more or less
equals its emigrants. In sectors that range from construction to
domestic help, Kerala depends on labour from other states for most of
its low-paid jobs.
Until recently, however, few knew that Kerala has even been sourcing orphans from other states!
The state, it seems, does not have enough orphans for its 2,000 odd
private orphanages to admit. Hence, these orphanages, most of them run
by Muslim and Christian religious groups, have been getting hundreds of
poor Muslim children from states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and West
Bengal with the help of a network of agents.
It is no secret that more than any humanitarian concern, what drives
orphanages to desperately seek inmates are the liberal government grants
and huge donations from abroad. According to statistics available with
the Union Home Ministry, 1,500-odd organisations based in Kerala—most of
them religious entities or NGOs—received more than Rs 10,000 crore over
the past decade as donations, of which 60 per cent went to those
running orphanages and destitute homes.
In 2012-13 alone, 1,502
organisations received a total Rs 850 crore. Except the Mata
Amritanandamayi Mutt, all the top recipients were Christian and Muslim
organisations, with the Believers Church leading the pack with Rs 417
crore collected in the past three years.
The scandal of Kerala’s orphan trade surfaced dramatically on 24 May
when the Railway Protection Force at Palakkad Railway station
intercepted two long-distance trains coming from Assam and Bihar. Out
came from two coaches of either train about 600 Muslim boys and girls
aged between five and 13 years, all of them originally from Bihar, West
Bengal and Jharkhand. These children, packed like sardines in the
compartments, were utterly exhausted from their long journey, and more
than 150 of them had neither tickets nor any documents.
interrogation, the eight adults who had travelled with them disclosed
that the children were being brought to be admitted to two orphanages in
Kozhikode and Malappuram districts run by Sunni clerical organisations
closely associated with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a party
that happens to be the second largest constituent of Kerala’s ruling
United Democratic Front. One of the two orphanages under the scanner is
headed by Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal, the League’s state president.
On their arrival at Palakkad, the orphanage authorities paid the
fines levied by the Railways on those who had travelled without tickets,
admitted that the children were being taken to their institutions, and
proclaimed themselves to be do-gooders, wondering aloud what was wrong
with their “humanitarian” mission of helping orphans from other states,
as they had been doing for decades.
However, the District Child Welfare
Committee under the state Social Welfare department, led ironically by a
Muslim League minister, took custody of the kids and recommended action
against the orphanages and their agents under the Juvenile Justice Act.
On their part, the state police registered cases of child trafficking.
Asked Ramesh Chennithala, Kerala’s home minister and former KPCC
President, “Why [do] these orphanages import children from other states
instead of setting up centres there if they’re [so] concerned
about these children?” Even the IUML’s MK Muneer, the state’s social
welfare minister, demanded action against the alleged child traffickers.
The children, it was confirmed, had been brought in violation of laws
on orphan admission. This kicked up a storm. Under the Juvenile Justice
Act of 2006, sanction letters from the concerned state governments,
local self-governments and families are mandatory, as also birth
certificates (among other things), for the admission of children from
other states to orphanages. Most children did not have these documents.
Some had fakes.
The state government appeared to initiate strict action against the
offenders. But soon, League leaders and scores of Muslim outfits jumped
in to defend the orphanages. They attacked police officers for
registering cases and chastised Chennithala for portraying the so-
claimed ‘minor procedural lapse’ on the orphanages’ part as a case of
child trafficking. They also hit out at him for ‘communalising’ the
issue, as they put it.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy parroted the League line and Chennithala
fell silent. Kerala’s Minorities Commission, led by a Congress leader,
defended the orphanages as well. Muneer, too, changed tack and swallowed
his words, saying there was no case of child trafficking but only a
minor procedural lapse.
The state BJP, in the meantime, took the case to the Centre. Union
Minister Maneka Gandhi described it as one of child trafficking.
Malayalam TV channels sent reporters to the children’s villages in Bihar
and Jharkhand, and reported that they had been “purchased” from their
families by agents for Rs 1,000 each to be sold at double the price to
Officials of the Jharkhand government arrived in
Thiruvananthapuram and confirmed that it was a case of child trafficking
and asked for the children’s immediate return. The state Human Rights
Commission came down heavily on the orphanages and instituted an
investigation. With the Kerala High Court too reprimanding the state
government for its casual attitude towards the incident, League and
Congress leaders have now chosen silence.
Chandy has offered to bear all
expenses for the children’s return journey. But as the dust over the
scandal settles, the case of child trafficking looks like being given a
silent burial and the orphanages getting back to business as usual.