Police silent over Operation Smile report


State shelter at Hosur Road

The rescue mission led by ACP P. Harishekharan (east division) on Aug 6 in Bangalore was unsuccessful and lacked transparency, alleges an interim report released by two NGOs.

The report released on Sept 5 by People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Concerned for Working Children, alleges that there has been a complete lack of coordination among the committees working to rescue children.

The objectives of Operation Smile were to rescue children involved in begging, trace missing children and children who are drugged and made to work as beggars. Bangalore city police worked in coordination with the Department of Women and Child Welfare and a few NGOs of the city.

Police has no actual data on the number of children who were rescued. The data from Child Welfare Committee shows 60 kids were rescued, but media reports on Aug 7 said that around 150 children were rescued.

The children were taken to state run shelters at Hosur road and shelters of the participating NGO.

The report alleges that the police rescued children without any basic background checks. They were seized and taken to shelters on the basis of their impoverished appearance. They later turned out to be children of migrant workers.

“When we reached state homes for boys and girls, we found agitated parents waiting outside, said Nishitha Khajane, an activist from Concerned for Working Children (CWC).

“We helped in drafting the release application of the children and it took us almost two weeks to get a few of them released. Parents had to go through a trauma and documental roadblocks to get their kids home,” she added.

The background proof establishing whether these kids were actual beggars or not should have been done by the police, instead parents had to furnish proof and that took days, says report.

In one of the cases, three girls had gone out to buy shampoo and the police picked them up because they looked “unclean”.

In another case, a woman interfered when the police was trying to “rescue” a minor, and was chased and seized by them

“We went to meet P. Harishekharan and waited outside his office for two hours but we were not allowed to meet him,” said Darshana, an activist from PUCL.

“It is kind of surprising to us because Harishekharan is a friendly officer and he gave a lot of quotes to the media during the operation. His lack of response is worrying. We are going to file an RTI soon if he refuses to talk to us again,” she added.

"I am not in a position to comment on this right now,' said Harishekharan to the Softcopy when asked about Operation Smile.

"The operation was handled by Harishekharan and I was not involved in it at all,' said Additional Commissioner Pratap Reddy, whose office is quite near Harishekaran's.

He would not comment on whether there is data relating to the number of children rescued.



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