For Rs 7000, girl kept as slave, abused for 5 years
A horror tale of a 17-year-old girl living in slavery and abused for nearly five years by a businessman's family for a mere Rs 7,000 has surfaced in the city on the eve of the Republic Day. The girl was rescued last Thursday by volunteers of Childline, an NGO, and is now undergoing rehabilitation in the state government's Karuna women's shelter home on Katol Road.
The matter is under investigation by the Koradi police who are, however, yet to register an offence.
According to activists of Childline, the girl (name withheld) was virtually pawned with the family of businessman Rajesh Janiani, a resident of Mankapur, some five years ago when she was just 12-years-old. Her mother Sita (name changed on request), a resident of Lashkaribagh, desperately needed money for the treatment of her elder daughter Sunita, then 14, who was later diagnosed with brain tumour. Sita works as domestic help in some houses. Her husband, a habitual alcoholic, does no work.
Sita approached the Janianis through a neighbour Sheela who used to work as domestic help with them. Janianis apparently extended a loan of Rs 7000 to Sita. They asked her to let her children work with them for some time in order to repay the loan. Sita says she agreed since it was summer vacation and sent her daughter and son to work with Janianis who run a grocery store in Sadar.
Initially, the girl was first sent to Agra for six months to look after a handicapped relative of the Janianis. After the person's death, she was brought to the city.
Sita says since then she was not allowed to meet her daughter. Janianis allegedly kept the girl at their home while her brother was employed at their shop. Both suffered frequent beatings at the slightest pretext. The girl has revealed to her rescuers that she was given just four rotis with pickles every two days to eat and a cup of tea with one biscuit in the morning.
Childline volunteers said neighbours had confirmed hearing the girl being beaten up by the Janianis and crying. The couple's two grown up sons, both in their 20s, too used to beat her up. Whenever the family went out, the girl would be locked up in the store room with a stock of rotis and water to last her for the period of the outing. On Wednesday, the Janianis were all set to go to Goa for a vacation after locking her up thus.
After suffering abuse for about two years, her brother ran away to Bilaspur. A missing complaint was lodged about this but he returned on his own about a week later and resumed working with the Janianis. Since then, Sita says he did not suffer beatings and was working in Janiani's shop only during the day. They were not allowed to meet the girl though.
According to Sita, whenever she went to see her daughter, she was sent away on some excuse or only shown the girl from a distance. She was all the time assured the girl was fine.
Sita says the kids were not paid anything for their work. She continued with the arrangement even after the loan amount was settled because she thought the girl was being taken care of and was even getting some education. When for prolonged period, Sita could not see her daughter she became apprehensive.
She says she even went to the Koradi police who did not entertain her complaint. Sita approached the crime branch a few days ago but the cops here too made perfunctory enquiries with Janianis who told them they did not have any girl in the house. Finally she was helped by Aruna Gajbhiye, principal of Tirpude College of Social Work, who suggested that she approach Childline, a central government initiative to help children in distress run with the help of NGOs.
Childline volunteers Vasanti Deshpande, Sanyogita Durge, Asha Sonawane, and its city coordinator Barnic Gangmei, with the help of staff from Koradi police, then reached Janianis and rescued the girl who was in a trauma and was not even speaking. She apparently had injury marks on her body. She is undergoing counselling at the shelter home.
The Koradi police said her statement would be recorded once she is able to speak coherently and then offence would be registered.
The Janianis, however, said they never tortured the girl. "We were planning to even marry her off and had opened a bank account in her name too," said Rajesh Janiani, adding that she was like a daughter to them.
While agreeing that Rita did borrow money from him, Rajesh said, "The amount was Rs 75,000 which she has not returned. Rita in fact wanted to sell her daughter who also did not want to go home to her alcoholic father."