Arulkumar was found after 5 years in Devasamudram, Krishnagiri

Arulkumar was four years old when his father forced him into bonded labour in Devasamudram, Krishnagiri, after pocketing an advance of ₹2,000. The Irula boy was rescued on Monday five years later, months after his mother launched a search for him.

Five years ago, Saravanan, a resident of Gadambur village, Omarabad in Vellore, separated from his wife,Valli. They have five sons, and Saravanan left home with four, including Arulkumar. That was the last time that Valli saw them. “I thought that my husband was taking good care of them. There were times when I wanted to meet my sons but did not try to, out of fear that he might create trouble. But later, I came to know that my husband died, and set out to look for my sons. I managed to find one boy, while two others found their way back home on their own,” she said.

Duck grazing

As the family was engaged in grazing ducks, Valli looked for those engaged in the same. “I kept searching for people engaged in duck rearing in Kancheepuram and Arakkonam. I found that Arulkumar was in Krishnagiri. I went thrice but the owner refused to let him go,” she said. She approached the Foundation for Sustainable Development, an NGO. On Monday, NGO members along with officials rescued the boy. Speaking to The Hindu, RDO N. Saravanan said, he had got a call from a lawyer in Vellore on behalf of the child’s mother. When he went to Devasamudaram, the place was empty and they found the boy in Giddampatty minding ducks. The woman of the family holding the boy said his father had taken an advance and had pledged the son to work as a labourer. “He came once to see him but never returned. Even if the boy wanted to escape, he didn’t know any place to go to,” she said.

This was a clear case of bonded labour because, they did not return the child even when the mother came thrice askingfor her son. Nor did they inform the police or the revenue department, Mr. Saravanan added.

Delayed FIR

However, Krishnagiri town police was caught up in semantics of labour and refused to file an FIR under bonded labour. An official souce said, the town police inspector insisted that it would attract only a child labour charge.

Thus, the Village Administrative Offier’s complaint at the station was not taken.
Multiple calls to the International Justice Mission, the Labour Commissioner and finally, the Collector, led to a FIR under Sections of the Bonded Labour Act along with provisions under the Child Labour Prohibition Act and IPC on Tuesday.

Arulkumar was produced before the Sub-Collector of Tirupattur, Vellore and was enrolled in a residential school. Though Valli is sad that her son had to face torture at the hands of the owner, she is happy that she found him. “He has grown tall but looks weak due to lack of proper food. I want him to study well and make it big in life,” she added.