“The girl – born at Supe in Baramati taluka – is the last of the eight daughters in the family of a nomadic community from Mazegaon in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district. The family makes a living out of small-time jobs,” said senior inspector Bhaskar Jadhav of Pune crime branch’s social security cell.
The couple have been arrested from their house at Ramwadi in Lohegaon. They represent a community that makes a living out of cracking whip on their own person to seek alms. “As the child started growing, she was beaten and forced into begging at traffic signals in Vimannagar and Kalyaninagar by the arrested couple,” said Jadhav.
Investigations revealed that the girl’s parents sold her for Rs2,000 “with consent” from members of the village’s jaat (caste) panchayat. Her parents and 11 others from Mazegaon have been booked. A case has been registered for offences under sections 366A (procuration of minor girl), 370 (human trafficking) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code; sections 75 (cruelty to child), 76 (employment of child for begging) and 81 (sale and procurement of children for any purpose) of the Juvenile Justice Act and Section 11 (employing or causing people to beg or using them for purposes of begging) of the Prevention of Beggary Act at the Yerawada police station.
“We will summon the girl’s parents and the jaat panchayat members for questioning to establish their roles before taking further action. The arrested couple claimed that they had adopted the girl but could not furnish documents to show that they were legally in possession of her,” said sub-inspector Dattatray Nangre of the Yerawada police.
The girl has been sent to an observation home for children following her medical examination at a government hospital as per the directions of the district child welfare committee. “We will also initiate a process to move the seven other daughters from her family to the observation home for better living and education,” said senior inspector Jadhav.
Hadapsar lawyer Shubham Lokhande, who approached the police for the girl’s rescue, told TOI, “The Ramwadi couple claimed they had adopted the girl by giving an undertaking on a Rs500 stamp paper signed by her parents. Such adoption has no legal standing. Even if a child is adopted, the same does not give one the right to push him/her into begging and slavery.”
Lokhande, a member of the same community which the girl’s family represents, said he learnt from a friend in the last week of July this year that a section of Mazegaon villagers had opposed the jaat panchayat’s “consent” to sell the girl during their meeting in January 2019.
“I started verifying the information by visiting all those places connected with the incident. I collected video evidence of the girl begging at the traffic signal and the place where she was staying. I then visited Mazegaon to record the statement of the girl’s grandmother regarding the circumstances under which she was sold. I also recorded statements of witnesses and the jaat panchayat members. Some of them now reside at Baramati, Daund and Pune.'”
Later, Lokhande approached Pune’s joint commissioner of police Sandip Karnik with the audio-video evidence and the latter asked the social security cell to act on them.
“We verified the lawyer’s evidence and found the same to be reliable before rescuing the girl,” said Jadhav.