MAHENDRA WAS taken to Karnal, in Punjab, by a Sikh man. “From Karnal we were taken to Sandgaon, where he lived. At Sandgaon, he took us first to his sugarcane fields, and then later to the buffalo shed and told me that I have to wake up at four in the morning, clean the shed and prepare fodder for the buffaloes before sunrise. I was then supposed to work in the fields all day,” he recounts.
“It was only after the morning chores that I was given the morning chai and two rotis for the day. I then had to work in the fields.” Mahendra worked in the fields with Shehnewaz, another abducted boy. “He was the one who told me that the sardar had bought me for Rs 4,000 from a local agent.”
When pressed for the sardar’s name, Mahendra mumbles, “His name was Gijja Singh, and his sister was called Preeti. His son’s name was Dilbagh Singh. They have a big house in Sandgaon surrounded by high walls on all sides, so I could never run away. They abused and beat me whenever I talked about going home. We weren’t even given enough food to eat. The sardar used to say that food would make us lazy.”
DATA ON MISSING CHILDREN IN DELHI*
*Till 15 April 2012, Source: Ministry of Home Affairs
In the meantime, Mahendra’s parents left no stone unturned in their efforts to trace their son. They travelled from Delhi to Haridwar pasting ‘missing child’ posters in every nook and corner along the way, as the police in Delhi refused to register and FIR. “I ran to Jahangirpuri police station the same day my son was abducted. But the lady-in-charge asked me for mithai in return for registering the FIR. I gave her the Rs 200 I had in my pocket then, but she only made a diary entry. I was asked to look for my child myself. After making numerous rounds of the station, an FIR was finally registered, but I wasn’t given a copy,” says Ram Ratan, Mahendra’s father, who works as a daily wage labourer in a tobacco factory.
Amazingly, an NGO working in these regions have commented in the article : “ACCORDING TO Kailash Satyarthi, head of Bachpan Bachao Andolan “such events are examples of the shortsightedness of schemes like the MNREGA, which led a big chunk of agricultural labour to shift towards welfare schemes, resulting in acute shortage. Keeping local children is always riskier as their parents can come searching so sugarcane farmers have started bringing children from Delhi.”
So… the conclusion is that if agricultural labour goes short because of a government scheme, it’s quite natural that land owners abduct and buy children as bonded labour?