minor shimla twins bonded labor

Shimla’s poverty stricken minor twins recall horrific 11 months of bonded (child) labor, abuse and torture

The girls escaped this inhuman trap only when one of them was hospitalized in a hospital in Dehradun after being badly kicked in stomach by a member of accused family.

SHIMLA– Himachal is shocked over a heartbreaking tale of minor twin sisters, who were allegedly forced into unpaid, bonded (child) labor at the house of a well-off family based in Paonta Sahib of district Sirmaur in Himachal Pradesh. For about 11 months, these girls were allegedly exposed to brutally, sexual harassment and were kept in inhuman conditions for about a year. The girls were reportedly made to work in house and showroom of accused Vijay Bhalla. Bhalla was arrested by police on Saturday.

A case under section 12 of the Protection of Children From Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act, 2012, section 323 of the Indian Penal Code and section 23 of Juvenile Justice Act has been registered against him, his is wife Usha and one Pankal. Wife and Pankal are on the run and police is on the look for them. The husband has been sent on two day police remand. As per police, statement of only one of the sisters could be registered as the second one is not in state of speaking.

The story of these minors involves blatant violation of fundamental rights to violation of human rights with no fear of law at all. The biggest culprits in this story are poverty, illiteracy, and backwardness of their village followed by accused family. The girls belong to backward Dhar Chandna village in Kupvi belt of Shimla district. The girls escaped this inhuman trap only when one of them was hospitalized in a hospital in Dehradun after being badly kicked in stomach by a member of accused family. The accused family tried to conceal the matter and left the girls in hospital in Dehradun.

One of the girls told Himachal Watcher that both sisters, not older than 13-14 years, were sent to a wealthy family in Paonta Sahib in Sirmaur by their poor father in hope of better future.

Somehow, a relative of the girls helped in bringing back them to Shimla. Now, the twins are admitted at the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, Shimla. A few days ago, two of the Himachal Watcher’s Community members visited the girls at hospital only find that they don’t have proper cloths and footwear. Their father was standing nearby, wearing a worn out pair of shoe that is covered with numerous patches used for repair.

As it is very sensitive matter, the doctors had not made the medical report public. Earlier, at hospital in Dehradun, some nurses took pity on seeing the girls in rags and gave them some of their cloths.

As per the father, he was approached by a man, Pankal, from Rohnat region in Sirmaur, who suggested him to send the girls to the house of his god-sister. The family that took the girls had told the father, Badri Ram (59) that the girls will be treated like family members and will be sent to school. In return, the family had said, the girl will help in domestic works. The poverty stricken father of six children (5 girls, 1 son) was hardly in position to refute such offer.

Unfortunately, a horrible reality waited for these children. The father had given the girls a mobile phone and some money, both of which were snatched from them as soon as they were delivered to the family. What happened to them in next 11 months has sent one of the sisters in such state of shock that she is hardly able to speak anything.

Their father also recalled how he was lured to this tragic trap. Their father is already a victim of poverty, illiteracy, and such ignorance that he had no idea about family planning. Six children for a poor man is hardly anything more than a burden. This burden made him so insensitive that he agreed to send his daughter to face mental and physical agony of some high-headed, wealthy family.

The accused family didn’t let the daughters talk to their father during this time. The girls were not sent to school and were allegedly threatened and beaten to keep them silent.

The case came into light when a Shimla-based NGO, Umang Foundation, was informed regarding the case. The Chairman, Ajai Shrivastva, visited the girls and helped their father to file a zero FIR. Mr. Shrivastva also wrote to the Ministry of Women and Child welfare regarding the violation of fundamental rights of these minors and their inhuman treatment as child-laborers.

Here is what Mr. Shrivastva said regarding the case:

Mr. Shrivastva said that zero FIR was registered in Shimla that was forwarded to the Paonta Sahib police for further investigation and action. The zero FIR has been lodged under Section 323 of IPC and Section 23 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000. However, now Sirmaur police has registered the case under properly and arrested one of the accused.

However, the arrested accused claims that only one side of the story is being presented. He denied all the charges saying none of the girls were ever exposed to inhuman treatment or sexual abuse.

The story clearly depicts how poverty and illiteracy destroyed childhood of two little girls and deprived them of education. This is another instance where government’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Badho” campaign has failed.

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