In a suspected case of child trafficking, 456 children below the age of 12 and 50 adults who accompanied them without valid documents were detained by the Railway Police at the Palakkad Junction station on Saturday. About 100 of them were girls.
The children, aged between three and 12, had alighted from the Patna-Ernakulam Express at 2.30 p.m. to board a train to Kozhikode.
The adults who accompanied them claimed the children lived at an orphanage at Mukkom, near Kozhikode, and were returning after visiting their native villages in Bihar.
Acting on a tip-off about child trafficking, the Railway Police intercepted them with the help of the Palakkad district police and officials of the Social Welfare Department. Though some of the children produced identity cards of the orphanage at Mukkom, the majority of them did not have documents to prove their identity.
The police took the children to the Social Welfare Department’s children’s home at Muttikulangara.
P. Vijayachandran, Railway Police Inspector, said the orphanage at Mukkom had been told to furnish documents validating the children’s stay there.
Orphanage representatives, who reached the spot, said the authorities from Mukkom would reach Palakkad by late night with supporting documents.
The district authorities and the police said the children would be released only after conducting an open hearing and examining the credentials of the orphanage.
The children were visibly tired due to lack of proper food during the journey in four congested compartments of the train. Some children did not have travel ticket. Palakkad North Circle Inspector B. Hariprasad, who assisted the Railway Police in the operation, said no procedure related to taking small children from one State to another was followed in this case. The children were found to be from economically backward families. Rules of travel by trains had been violated, he said.
Later, the district administration provided food and other basic facilities for the children.
Suo motu case
Staff Reporter writes from Thiruvananthapuram: The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has registered a suo motu case in connection with the rescue of 400 children from Patna-Ernakulam train. The Commission has directed the Superintendent of Police, Palakkad, Railway Protection Force and head of the Social Justice Department, Palakkad, to submit a report on the incident within seven days.
Chairperson of the Commission Neela Gangadharan has also instructed Palakkad District Collector to conduct a separate inquiry and provide security to the rescued children, an official release here said.