Members of a tribal community in Nashik facing livelihood crisis due to the COVID pandemic “handed over” their children to goatherds for up to Rs 10,000 a year to work as labourers, police said on Sunday.
The matter came to light after an 11-year-old girl working as a labourer died recently, they said, adding that a case of murder has been registered in this connection.
The Nashik rural police have so far rescued eight such children from neighbouring Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. Two persons have been arrested in connection with the murder case and three others held under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act-1976, a senior official said.
On August 27, the girl was found lying unconscious outside a tribal community camp where 12 families were staying in temporary sheds along a roadside at Ubade village in Ghoti area on Sinnar Road. Somebody had left the girl outside the camp, an official said. She was rushed to a hospital where she died during treatment on September 3, he said.
During enquiry, the police came to know the girl and her 10-year-old brother were handed over to goatherds in Ahmednagar. The girl used to come to meet her parents once or twice a year.
Nashik rural superintendent of police Sachin Patil took serious cognisance of the issue and asked for a detailed investigation. The police found that at least 11 such children, aged 6-15, were given by their family members to goatherds in Ahmednagar, the official said.
After this incident, the Nashik police, with the help of their Ahmednagar counterparts, have so far rescued eight minor children from goatherds, another official said.
An investigation revealed parents of these children gave them to goatherds through agents for getting up to 10,000 a year and a goat / sheep in return, the official said. The children were deployed for guarding sheep and goats.