The recent international child trafficking racket busted by the Mumbai crime branch has revealed that parents in Punjab were sending their minor children willingly at the age of 12 or 13 due to growing drug menace and unemployment in the state.
Crime branch investigation has revealed that around 110 such children have been reportedly sent to France and other European countries from Punjab by the accused trio in the past eighteen months.
The Anti Robbery and Dacoity Squad (ARDS) of the Mumbai crime branch acting on specific information laid a trap and nabbed three persons last Friday and rescued four children from the Terminal 2 of Mumbai international airport.
The accused trio have been identified as Arif Farooqui (38), Rajesh Pawar (47), and Fatima Ahmed (48) who ran the human trafficking racket from Mumbai. The ADRS had received information that some people running a child trafficking racket will be flying abroad on Thursday or Friday along with some children aged between 12 and 13.
Based on the information, a trap was laid and on Friday the team nabbed two suspects who were with four children from the terminal 2 of the airport. On being questioned, the suspects revealed their names as Rajesh Pawar and Fatima and stated the four were their children.
When communicated with them in Marathi, the children couldn't answer after which the duo were grilled further. The duo then revealed about the trafficking racket and also revealed name of the racket's kingpin named Arif Farooqui. While Farooqui is a photographer, Pawar is an assistant cameraman and Fatima is known to be a hairstylist for some Bollywood actors.
Rajesh Pawar, Fatima Ahmed and Arif Farooqui were taken into custody and interrogated. The accused later revealed the modus operandi of their racket.
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- A senior crime branch officer said "Farooqui was the kingpin and had his agents in Punjab through whom he would lure interested clients who wanted their children to settle in France of other European countries. The modus operandi was that the interested parents would pay Rs 10 lakh to the agents after which Farooqui would prepare fake passports of the children with different names. This was to avoid screening of names of some states of the country which face difficulty getting a Schengen visa for visiting Schengen countries".
- He added "the passports were easily made as police verification is not done for minors and the accused would abuse this flaw in the system.The visa processing also was easy as minors aren't interviewed while obtaining the Schengen visa and this helped them further. Once the visa was issued, Pawar and Ahmed would accompany the children posing as their parents or relatives and after reaching France would hand them over their connection in the country. The children will have to stay in a Gurudwara as orphans and would carry on their education with help of the trust".
- The investigation has also revealed that the plan was that the children would spend five to six years staying in Gurudwara or a orphanage in France as orphans and once they turned eighteen they would be helped by aides of Farooqui who would apply for citizenship. Under the right for education, the children would get enrolled in schools as orphans for their formal education till they attained eighteen years of age and received formal citizenship.
- The crime branch team when questioned the parents, some of them revealed that they had no idea that the route they had adopted was illegal while some of them claimed that they went to this route as their children would lead a good life in a European country. The parents also said that the atmosphere in Punjab was too bad and drug addiction had grown as an epidemic of which most of the young children were falling victims to.
- Another major reason was lack of industrialisation and unemployment despite being educated which forced them to go this way and separate themselves from their young children.
- "The carrier got Rs one lakh each for each trip while air tickets were taken care of by the kingpin, the remaining Rs eight lakh remained with Farooqui and his contact in France who would tell the children's parents that the remaining money was for expenditure of the children till they attained the age of eighteen. The accused have revealed they have sent more than 110 children so far but we suspect that the number could be much higher" said another senior officer from Mumbai crime branch.