By Brian Campbell, International Labor Rights Forum
Police in the Indian state of Gujarat arrested Harmish Patel on Wednesday for allegedly trafficking children for labor. Patel is the owner of Umapati Ginning in the village of Bodaso in Kedi, Gujurat, where in this past February Anil, a 12 year old child laborer, had been working ginning cotton when he lost his arm in a tragic ginning accident. Patel’s arrest release came more than two months after Anil’s step mother, Hakribai Bhagora, filed a complaint with the local police with the help of local labor organizers from PRAYAS, seeking Patel’s arrest.
Justice for Anil was short lived, though. When news broke in the local media of Patel’s arrest, labor organizers from PRAYAS immediately contacted the police to inquire about Anil’s condition, who was being held captive by Patel since the February accident despite efforts by his family to secure his release.
When making the arrest, though, police did not attempt to notify Anil’s family or PRAYAS, nor did they take Anil into protective custody. Instead, Anil was left in the hands of Patel’s family. Most recently, when Anil’s older brother Thrava, 18, a factory worker in nearby Ahmedabad, and an organizer for PRAYAS visited Patel at his home in Kedi last Saturday to again request his release, Patel refused to allow Thrava to meet with his brother alone and they could only talk under the watchful eye of the cotton gin owner.