The boy's father could not take care of him so he had given him away to a cattle farmer in exchange of Rs 20, 000, around six months ago. The boy, a migrant from the neighbouring Dharmapuri district, had lost his mother and was living with his alcoholic father and an aunt, district officials told NDTV.
Initially local people suspected something was wrong after seeing the boy rearing the villager's herd of fifty sheep. They alerted a non-profit body and the local child welfare authorities, alleging the boy was "sold" off.
"A probe has been ordered. It appears the boy was given as security till his father repaid Rs 20, 000 he borrowed," chief of the Child Labour Project, S Priya told NDTV.
In a video, that has been doing the rounds, the farmer is seen telling local people, "I used him only for rearing my sheep. What I did was wrong." The boy was apparently promised one meal a day; breakfast at 11 am.
Child Welfare authorities told NDTV this could be a case of bonded labour. No police report has been filed and the local officers are yet to step in said the child welfare personnel.