India court opens legal proceedings into orphan trafficking


Kerala orphanages importing children in order to get state funding and subsidies, police say reporter, Thiruvananthapuram, India, September 23, 2014

A court in southern India began legal proceedings Monday against orphanages for allegedly trafficking large numbers of children to Kerala from poorer northern states.

The Kerala High Court directed the state government to file a detailed report outlining details of the orphanages and their residents within four weeks.

The court is seeking data on orphanages, both state recognized and privately run, and has asked the government if it has a way of inspecting how these institutions are run.

The court chose to intervene after railway police in May detained 578 children allegedly trafficked from West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar. The children were reportedly bound for Kerala orphanages.

Kerala police registered two cases of child trafficking against two orphanages operated by a Muslim charity organization. Police also arrested seven agents in connection with the case. The police investigation revealed that the orphanages had used fraudulent documents to traffic the children.

Police officials said hundreds of children are trafficked to claim financial aid and subsidized food from the state government. The trafficked children also create jobs in privately run state-aided schools, where the state pays salaries.

The number of orphans is relatively low in Kerala due to low birth rates. Because of this, some orphanages pay agents to bring children from more impoverished states, a police source alleged.

Former parliamentarian and lawyer Sebastian Paul said the state was ineffective in stopping trafficking. But now that the court has opened a case, the orphanages will be placed under the court’s watchful eye.

“It is a landmark judicial move to protect child rights. Many orphanages are run for profit and are receiving huge foreign donations. Now the government would be forced to control such malpractices,” Paul told

Retired Justice J.B. Koshy, chairman of the State Human Rights’ Commission, told that in January 2011 his commission ordered several orphanages to provide a list of residents after receiving several complaints of trafficking. “But most of the orphanages failed to respond to our directive,” he said.

S Sreejith, police inspector-general, told that his investigations found large-scale irregularities in orphanage operations, including faked documents that allowed them to receive state aid.

“In most cases these children are not orphans, they just come from poor families,” Srejith said.