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Boy herds goats to pay for dad’s last rites
In a yet another poignant case, a 10-year-old boy, who was sent to herd goats for an advance of Rs 6,000 to meet the expense of his father’s last rites, was rescued from bonded labour near Orathanadu on Wednesday.
The boy, Arya (name changed), was working under a herd owner, Mahalingam, ever since he lost his father Natarajan in the cyclone Gaja attack.
According to sources, some locals, who noticed the 10-year-old herding goats near Orathanadu, called the 1098 Child helpline number and alerted the officials. Acting on the tipoff, a special team, comprising labour inspector Anabazhagan, deputy tahsildhar Agathiyan and child line official Fathima Raj, was formed by revenue divisional officer. The team visited the spot on Wednesday and confirmed that Arya was herding goats at Mela Vannipattu village located on Orathanadu-Mannargudi Road.
After inquiries, the team found that the boy was a resident of a village near Pattukkottai in Thanjavur.
During further inquiries, Arya told the team that his father suffered serious injury on the hip after a coconut tree fell on him during the cyclone Gaja’s. As there was no mode of transportation at that time because of the cyclone havoc, he said, family members managed to take his injured father to the Thanjavur Medical College Hospital only three days after incident. However, his father succumbed to injuries on the 5th day of admission to the hospital.
Meanwhile, the boy’s mother reportedly got Rs 6,000 as advance from U Mahalingam of Pottalangudi, the herd owner, to meet the expenses of last rites of her husband. As the father succumbed to injuries at a hospital, the boy’s family was not provided the solatium of Rs 10 lakh announced by the state governent. But Rs 50,000 was given as a compensation to the family later. To settle the advance amount, Arya was sent to herd the cattle of Mahalingam. Inquires revealed that the boy has been herding 100 goats every day with limited quantity of food offered by Mahalingam. The boy also told the team that his elder brother was also into cattle grazing.
The boy was produced before the RDO on Wednesday. The RDO also ordered for an immediate relief of Rs 20,000. The officials said that once the inquiry was completed the RDO would issue a release order. Meanwhile, a case would be registered against the herd owner Mahalingam under sections of Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, officials said.