Ravi, a class IV student of a Gujarati-medium school in Boisar, was sitting at the garlic shop of an uncle he was visiting in Saphale, Palghar, on 14 January, when members of Justice and Care, a New Delhi-based NGO working against child labour, took him and four other children to the Saphale police station.
Despite Ravi’s aunt following them to the police and pleading that the boy was her nephew and that his parents, both daily workers, were at a site nearby, the cops refused to release the boy and despatched him to the Janki Ramgyan shelter home at Saphale. “The aunt was crying and pleading, but we had to proceed as per the law,” said Assistant Police Inspector Mansinh Patil. “The problem was that Ravi did not know Hindi and the NGO officials didn’t bother to verify that he was a child labourer.”
Ravi’s parents brought his ID the next day, but Justice and Care officials insisted they submit the documents to the Child Welfare Committee at Bhiwandi. The parents reached the Saphale police station on Sunday and Ravi was only released on Monday. “Ravi would not have had to spend four days in the shelter if the NGO had made an effort to get the documents sooner,” Patil said. Manjusha Bhogade, the Legal Officer of Justice and Care apologised for the misunderstanding. She said the NGO was ready to compensate the parents for their mental trauma. Justice and Care is registered with the Child Welfare Committee, the state of Maharashtra and Muskan, an operation that helps trace missing and destitute children and reunite them with their parents.