Child trafficking, peadophile angles suspected; Kids were transferred without govt, parental consentThe Goa police have rescued 11 children in the age group of 9-11 from the "care" of UK national Timothy Geddes. All these boys are from Kolhapur. These children were rescued on April 16 and are now in the custody of two NGO-run care homes.
The boys were originally staying in 'My Father's House', a home for disadvantaged and HIV +ve children in Kolhapur, run by one Emmanuel Gaikwad and a Korean missionary Ekuk Kim (also called David).
It now emerges that they came under the custody of Geddes in Goa from July 2014 onwards.
What's baffling is how they were transferred to another state when the Juvenile Justice Act clearly says court-committed children in institutional care, like these 11, cannot be moved from one district to another -- even within the same state – without the permission of the Child Welfare Committee and the Women and Child Welfare Department.
Gaikwad admitted to dna that he had indeed taken the kids to Goa. "The
Kolhapur institution was shutting down and I wanted the children not to suffer," was his explanation.
But when asked why he violated the law to do so, he had no answer. He was also silent when asked how he could leave the children with a foreign national.
Till Saturday, even the parents of the 11 children did not know about their wards' whereabouts. When two parents, who could afford to travel to Goa, went there to meet their children, Gaikwad made them put their thumb impressions on a few papers.
The poor, illiterate parents put the thumb impressions without knowing the content. Gaikwad had actually made them sign on an affidavit stating that he will not be held responsible for whatever harm is caused to the children, dna later found out.
Though the Goa police have impounded Geddes' passport, he has not been detained so far.
Here's how the Goa police stumbled upon the children. In early January, Panjim locals grew suspicious when they started spotting young, unknown children moving around in the area. They alerted anti-trafficking organisation Anyay Rahit Zindagi (ARZ).
"We, in turn, alerted the police and the local Childline chapter and were on the lookout. Apart from information on sightings without leads, we weren't making any progress. Finally on April 16, when Childline activists noticed three boys with Geddes in Panjim, they raised an alarm and called the police, who swooped down and picked them up," Arun Pandey of ARZ told
"When the children said that there are more kids at a posh Bambolim house, the police raided the place, rescuing everyone," he said.
"The fully air-conditioned, palatial building rented for Rs 35,000 per month, located in the poshest blocks of Bambolim, had every luxury possible," remembers PSI Vikram Naik of Panjim police.
"Every room had wall-to-wall carpeting, gigantic TV screens and every bedroom had home theatre systems, apart from jacuzzis and tubs," he recounted.
"Understandably, children living in the lap of such luxury found the idea of moving into two NGO-run institutions in Goa unpalatable and weren't cooperative in the beginning," he said.
Pandey says this is not surprising. "Often, unless there's penetrative sex, the child doesn't even understand that s/he is being abused. This, coupled with 'lowered' standard of living in the custody of authorities, often makes them clam up," he said.
The police are now exploring the paedophile angle based on descriptions of intimate interactions the children are providing.
But Naik was at pains to explain why Geddes is not detained. "Without a watertight case what can we do?" is all he would say. In Kolhapur, parent-reactions ranged from extreme anger to resignation to biting sarcasm.
One of the boys' mother, a single mother and a sex worker, was livid. "He has proven what the world was always telling him – that the son of a sex worker will not come to any good," she said bursting into tears.
"Is this why people like me and my son are born? Just so that everyone uses us for fun?"
Others like the poor parents of the oldest boy, a 14-year-old, are angry that the police have kept the children in Goan institutions. "They should act against the offender but send our son back. He's a bright student and losing a year can spoil his life."
Home after home, dna found that the parents were not told about their children being found in Goa.
dna's investigations have shown that Ekuk and Gaikwad had quite a flamboyant lifestyle. That's exactly what a staff at the Mary Wanless Hospital premises, where 'My Father's House' was being run, said. Though a private residence now, the old board still hangs from the doorway.
dna contacted both Gaikwad and Geddes in Goa on phone, but both kept changing the status of who the latter was. Gaikwad said Geddes was a music teacher. Geddes said he was a music therapist at first, and an employee of the Agape Medical Trust, which was running Kolhapur's Mary Wanless Hospital until a year ago, later.
The Briton disconnected the phone when asked why he was staying with the children in violation of Sec 8 of the Goa Children's Act. He also refused to answer text messages.
Repeated attempts to reach Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar for comments drew a blank.
Priya Chorage, Kolhapur Child Welfare Committee Chairperson:
We have heard about the case from you. The Goa police should have got in touch with Kolhapur police to investigate this end of the case. Now that you have told us, we will raise the issue suo moto with the police here.
Vidya Thakur, Maharashtra state minister for women & child development
(After writing down all the details) I am thankful that dna has brought this to my attention. I will immediately get the secretary to speak to the Kolhapur SP and Goan authorities. Of course, we want strong action against this British national and the Indians who helped him but our first priority will be to bring back our children to Maharashtra and reunite them with their parents.
Arun Pandey, ARZ
The transfer of the children from Kolhapur to Goa and handing them over to a foreign national is a clear violation of Goa Children's Act, 2003, and Juvenile Justice Act. We fear that other children too would have been trafficked by the organisation in Kolhapur to other places. There's a need for police, CWC Kolhapur, DWCD, Maharashtra to conduct detail inquiry of transfer of Children to Goa and violation of Juvenile Justice Act.
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