Rescued Jharkhand maids continue to be stalked by human traders

Shakti Vahini 24PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA – BY AMBIKA PANDIT

Electricity is yet to touch lives here and few dare to come to Nisha’s village even during daytime. There’s the fear of Maoists in the villages along the forested border of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. There’s an even bigger fear for girls like Nisha: the threat of ruthless human traffickers.

You might have read about Nisha but won’t remember her. She appeared in one of those newspaper stories about maids’ abuse. This was in May this year — a story about a girl who was lucky to escape from the vicious grip of a placement agency servicing upscale New Friends colony and Maharani Bagh in south Delhi.

Two other girls trafficked in April 2013 from Khunti villages failed to survive. One died in Delhi and the other on the way back. There are numerous such cases. Human trafficking from this poverty-stricken, extremely backward part of the world is endemic.

The girls here are very vulnerable — extreme poverty being its biggest cause. Since 2009, Jharkhand has not been reporting figures of missing children and persons to NCRB. Experts admit the available data don’t reflect, therefore, the enormity of the problem.

For instance, Jharkhand CID statistics show a mere 282 registered cases on human trafficking between 2001 and September 2013, while a 2010 report by NGO Bharatiya Kisan Sangh put the number of girls trafficked to metro cities at 42,000. Most victims are below 20 years and the main destination is Delhi.

In Khunti alone, a dozen traffickers have been identified — those taking girls regularly out of villages for work to Delhi or Mumbai with promises rarely kept. Search is on for the small-time traffickers operating as intermediaries.

The danger of human trade is amplified by warnings painted in red and black cautioning against “manav vyapaar” (human trafficking). Detailed advisories are stuck on tree trunks and mud walls. Villagers know about the danger, but can they heed it always?

TOI did a reality check on the status of victim families to see why they can’t. Any promise of money is very tempting for those in dire poverty. Like Nisha’s parents, most villagers here work as farm or manual labour earning a meagre daily wage of Rs 50. Some lucky ones on lucky days can get Rs 250. But never more. And there are several days when there’s no work.

Government anti-poverty schemes might have helped but schemes like MNREGA are yet to reach intended beneficiaries who have no awareness and little access to information. In the circumstances, the poor don’t have either the resource or mental strength to ward off the lurking traffickers.
Take Nisha’s case. Her family does not want her to pursue the case against her trafficker and the village community has already made its discomfort known to the police. They don’t want trouble. To keep her afloat, a school in Ranchi earlier this month agreed to take her on as a caretaker. The opportunity came her way only after the intervention of Khunti’s anti-human trafficking unit. Nisha now dreams of resuming her education.

There are a few stories of hope too. The Dwarka maid is one of them. Remember her? She is the one who was locked her up by a doctor couple while they were holidaying abroad. She now lives in a village 40km from Khunti. After her rescue she was enrolled at a state-run residential facility in Ranchi. She stood first in the Class VII exams. Now in Class VIII, she has so far not missed a single hearing of her case in Delhi.

Her parents live in a mud hut in the midst of a bamboo groove. With their daughter determined to fight for justice, the mother told TOI that some relatives of the doctor couple came to the village and tried to persuade them to close the case with an offer of “lots of money”.

Khunti district’s SP Anish Gupta said the anti-human trafficking unit has drawn up a list of traffickers for investigation. He said the Gumla-Khunti-Simdega belt of Jharkhand was a special target of traffickers and the police was planning to step up checks of public transport like buses to catch traffickers and prevent teenage girls from leaving villages for work with persons posing as relatives.
IG (provisions) Anurag Gupta, who was earlier IG (CID), said there was no mechanism to regulate and monitor migration for domestic work. “We cannot stop people from moving out but a system has to be in place to check trafficking in the garb of migration. Once an incident happens the victim has no dedicated commission or authority to seek help. The matter gets stuck in jurisdictional issues,” says Gupta.

The Jharkhand government is asking boys and girls who want to leave for work in cities to register with the gram panchayats. Education is being posed as an attraction and girls are being given cycles to go to school.

But villagers say traffickers target girls while they are on way to school. As things stand, these measures are no match to the magnitude of the trafficking racket threatening to wreck innocent lives in tribal Jharkhand.

Traffickers linked to Maoists, cops say Intelligence agencies told TOI there are links between traffickers and Maoists. Trafficking of girls from Jharkhand villages to cities like Delhi and Mumbai is a source of income for the outlawed outfits.

Armed with evidence of this link, Jharkhand police is now preparing to impose the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act, 2008, on traffickers. It’s a harsh law that comes down heavily against those having links with banned outfits.

With no central or state legislation in place to regulate domestic work and placement agencies, the Jharkhand police are planning to confiscate the property of identified traffickers having links with banned outfits in keeping with provisions of the UAP Act.

Shakti Vahini 25

 

Board exam result brings happiness to trafficking victim

SHAKTI VAHINIPUBLISHED IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

NEW DELHI: Days after writing her class 10 board exams, 17-yearold Rashmi (name changed) was trafficked from a small village in Assam to Fatehabad in Haryana for forced marriage. For two months, she lived away from her family at a place where she was sexually assaulted and made to do household work.

Rescued earlier this month, the girl was still in shock and unable to overcome the trauma. Last week however, her exam results brought cheers to her life as she passed with 51%.

The survivor hailing from Barpeta in Assam belongs to a farmer family. “She is the eldest daughter of the family and is setting a very good example to her four younger brothers and sisters to work hard. She is an inspiration and proves that poverty cannot always hamper the growth of a family. Despite facing such a tough situation, she is ready to study further and has asked us to assist her,” said Rishi Kant, activist with Shakti Vahini NGO, which had rescued her.

Despite having been traumatised, the girl is optimistic about her future. After having passed her board exams, she now aspires to continue with her higher secondary education. She hopes to one day become a teacher.

“In India, social stigma is very much prevalent throughout all societies, her success is also contributed by her parents’ support who are willing to educate her further,” he added. “These success stories help strengthening government policies for extending their support to victims of human trafficking. These girls whom we call survivors are the real inspiration and strength for us in fighting human trafficking,” Rishi Kant further said.

Rashmi was trafficked to Delhi two months back and was sold to a family in Haryana for ` 80,000. Before selling her to the family she was raped by the trafficker and h

Shakti Vahini Jharkhand
PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

Police in Delhi and Jharkhand yet to register FIR

In the most recent of recurring cases of minors trafficked from rural areas to work as domestic workers in the city, a 14-year old Adivasi girl from Jharkhand was rescued from Kashmiri Gate on May 5 after she left her employer’s house in Chandigarh. Despite a Supreme Court order last January followed by a Home Ministry directive in July 2013 that complaints of all missing children be immediately registered as FIRs, Jharkhand police or Delhi police are yet to do this.

The girl Ritika Mundu (name changed) told the CWC that she had been brought to Delhi by a woman Phaguni Mundu from her village in Khunti in Jharkhand last month. She had been taken to Chandigarh to work as domestic worker where she was beaten regularly and not allowed to contact her family. She narrated that her employers had thrown her out of their house on May 4 after which she caught a bus to Delhi. She was spotted crying and in distress by vendors near ISBT who then alerted the Kashmiri Gate police chowki, who in turn informed the NGO Shakti Vahini.

Ritika Mundu, who has been sent to a children’s shelter home, was carrying an Aadhaar card which revealed her father Kunwar Mundu’s name and her address in Hetgaon village in Khunti’s Murhu block. Her father works as a farm labourer.

Usually, the Child Welfare Committee orders registering of an FIR but they did not specify this time. “The child’s father has not yet made a formal complaint,” said a senior police official in Delhi.

“A FIR should have been registered automatically to begin an investigation into who brought her here and if any placement agency was involved. Since the family is very poor, we have offered to assist them reach their child here,” said Rishikant of NGO Shakti Vahini. He added the NGO had rescued over 70 children from Jharkhand working as domestic workers so far this year.

In Murhu block in Jharkhand, the girl’s father Kunwar Mundu told Jharkhand-based NGO Diya Sewa Sansathan that Ritika, and two other boys including Ritika’s 10-year old cousin Uday Mundu, boarded a bus from the village with Phaguni Mundu on April 5 without informing their families.

“She was in my class but stopped coming regularly to school two years back to help her father. She is a simple child but very articulate. If she had continued she would be in class VIII now,” said Devi Kumari who teaches at the government middle school in Hetgaon. The village mukhiya Devnath Mundu said the village had witnessed similar cases last year too. “Two girls who are 12 and 13 years old are missing since last year, their families found no trace of them. We reported to the thana too but there was no information. Then, last month these three children boarded a bus to Ranchi and maybe a train from there. At least Ritika was found, there is no word on the other two boys who are 10 and 12 years old,” the mukhiya Devnath Mundu told The Hindu on the phone from Jharkhand.

Studies estimate the number of children trafficked from Jharkhand is between 30,000 to 40,000. But the number of FIRs of missing children is less than 500 – a huge gap,” said Baidnath Kumar who works with Diya Sewa Sansathan in Jharkhand.

Faridabad maid’s death: One held, second autopsy likely

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NEW DELHI: Six days after a tribal girl from Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal was found dead in mysterious circumstances at the residence of her employers in sector 49, the Faridabad police arrested the owner of a Delhi-based placement agency, Rafiq, on Saturday. He had been booked on the basis of an FIR on a complaint of the deceased domestic worker’s mother. With a second postmortem to establish the cause of death expected only by Monday, the girl’s decomposing body, for now protected by ice bars, lies in an ill-equipped and mice-infested “dead house” in Faridabad.

The police personnel of Dabua Chowki, under Saran police station, arrested Rafiq, who owns Laxmi Placement Agency in Tughlaqabad. He had allegedly brought the girl from her village after taking the consent of a relative, according to the mother, who was unaware of her daughter’s presence in the city.

The police will also be investigating the role of the affluent family that hired the girl for house work in March allegedly for a meagre Rs 3500 despite the fact that she appeared to be a minor. The police have registered a case against both the placement agency owner and her employers under sections related to kidnapping, trafficking, child labour, abetment to suicide and Juvenile Justice Act applicable to minors. The mother also wants a case to be registered under the SC/ST Atrocities Act.

The mother, herself a domestic worker employed in Janakpuri, has alleged that her daughter was only 13 and a very strong person who could not have committed suicide. She has claimed that the child, who was going to school in her village, was brought to Delhi without informing her husband who was taking care of the children while she worked in the capital.

The mother has, meanwhile, expressed shock to learn that a postmortem had already been conducted without her permission and the report declared it to be an ordinary death due to hanging, making it a case of suicide. She has now sought a fresh post-mortem.

Compounding the tragedy is the growing concern over the decomposing body and desperate search for space for burial. Social workers from NGO Shakti Vahini were seen frantically reaching out to different Christian institutions as they tried to seek space in a cemetery. “We were shocked when confronted by the demand for a certificate to show that she was a Catholic Christian before she could get burial space. When we told them that we did not have any such document and explained the situation, we were turned away,” said Rishikant of the NGO.

Similar resistance to burying a minor domestic worker from Jharkhand was witnessed last year and had led the NCPCR to issue directions wherein a list of churches and pastors in Delhi was drawn up for such cases. On Saturday too former NCPCR member Vinod Tikoo reached out to YMCA to intervene in the matter and resolve the crisis.

Girl trafficked from Bengal rescued

UTTAR PRADESH TRAFFICKING CASEPUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

A 15-year-old girl trafficked from Murshidabad district of West Bengal was rescued from a village in Shahjahanpur district in Uttar Pradesh on Friday.

The rescue operation was jointly conducted by the police forces of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh along with NGO Shakti Vahini. According to the police, the minor girl was trafficked by one Murjina (40) who sold her as a “bride” to a resident of the Uttar Pradesh village.

“The alleged trafficker, a resident of Sardarpara of Murshidabad district, approached the girl and asked if she wanted to learn shakha pola , traditional bangles worn by married Bengali women. Both became friends and nearly a week later, Murjina convinced her to visit her house, where she offered her food that made her unconscious. On the same day she was taken to Delhi by train,” the police said.

In the Capital, Murjina, a factory worker in Delhi, used to take the victim with her to the workplace so that she could not escape.

“After 10/12 days the girl was handed over to a man who married her forcefully. She was then confined in his house in a remote Uttar Pradesh village, from where she was rescued,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini.

The police were tipped-off about her whereabouts in the Mundka area of Delhi. The West Bengal police team reached Delhi and coordinated with the Shakti Vahini team. A raid was conducted in Mundka on Friday and a person Santosh was detained. He, a cousin of the alleged trafficker, confessed that the girl was confined in the U.P. village.

The police and the NGO team rushed to Shahjahanpur district and contacted the local police. With their assistance the girl was rescued. She was then brought to Delhi by the police team, which was accompanied by her father. “The girl will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee, Murshidabad. As per the direction of the Child Welfare Committee she will be given care and protection,” the police said.

Assam girl sold & raped in Haryana flees captivity

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PANKAJ SARMA IN THE TELEGRAPH

Guwahati, Feb. 5: A 22-year-old girl from Assam’s Udalguri district, who was sold to a man in Haryana for Rs 80,000 and allegedly gang raped, recently managed to flee the clutches of her captor.

The victim, who belongs to a poor family, was reportedly trafficked for the purpose of forced marriage by her aunt Meena Kumari, who sold her to a resident of Haryana, Suresh.

The victim used to work as an assistant in a garments shop in Guwahati and was lured by Meena Kumari, a resident of Fatasil Ambari here, to visit Sirsa in Haryana on the pretext of visiting her daughter.

On May 7 last year, the victim boarded a Delhi-bound train with her aunt. On reaching Delhi the next day, she was taken to Jind district in Haryana, about 130km from Delhi, and forced to stay in a house for four days. Her aunt told her that she would come back after which they would go to her daughter’s place together. But Meena did not return, the victim told counsellors of Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based NGO, its spokesperson Rishi Kant said.

After four days, the girl was sold to Suresh, a resident of Haryana’s Kaithal district and the son of a daily wage earner, for Rs 80,000.

The victim told the counsellors that Suresh and his cousin Mahavir raped her. “Suresh even put pressure on her to bear his child. When she refused, she was beaten up severely,” Kant said, quoting the victim.

The girl said she was forced to do all kinds of household work like washing and cleaning. Suresh confined her in his house and subjected her to the worst form of slavery. She would perform household chores the whole day and at night she was sexually abused by Suresh and Mahavir.

“On January 26, the victim managed to escape and reached Kurukshetra, about 50km away, where she narrated her sordid tale to a person who took her to the railway police who referred the case to Kaithal police. Both the accused have been arrested, along with Meena.

Kant said when Shakti Vahini contacted the victim’s family, “her elder brother told us that they did not have any information about her whereabouts”. Kant said the victim’s family members would go to Delhi to bring her back.

A case was registered under different sections of the IPC at Rajound police station in Kaithal district on January 31. The victim is now lodged at Nari Niketan, a women’s shelter home at Karnal in Haryana.

Several such cases have come to light recently. In December last year, police rescued a 32-year-old woman — a mother of two kids and a minor girl from Haryana. Last month, some minor girls trafficked to work as domestics were rescued from Delhi.

25 more anti-human trafficking cells in Odisha

PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIAM_Id_451072_Odisha

BHUBANESWAR: The state government has decided to extend Integrated Anti-Human Trafficking Units (IAHTUs) to 25 more district police headquarters to effectively combat trafficking, kidnapping, forcible marriage, sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children in the state.

While the IAHTUs currently function from 12 police headquarters, including the Crime Branch, the finance department two days ago sanctioned to open such units in 25 other districts. The state government’s decision to set up IAHTUs across the state came close on the heels of a Supreme Court directive, asking all states to open at least one IAHTU in each district.

“The finance department has sanctioned extension of the units to 25 other districts. Each unit would be headed by an inspector and assisted by seven constables. The units will take preventive steps to check women and child trafficking and investigate such cases,” ADG (Crime Branch) B K Sharma told TOI.

Crime Branch is the nodal agency of Odisha police to supervise the functioning of the IAHTUs in the state. Sources said nearly 2,000 cases relating to women and child trafficking were registered at 12 IAHTUs in Odisha last year.

The home department has asked the units to identify vulnerable areas from where women are being trafficked and train young women from weak financial background, prone to trafficking, to make themselves economically sound. “The units will have regular interface with women and child development department and NGOs to find out the high-incidence districts to track the source, route and destination places of illegal trafficking of girls and women. Preventive measures will be taken to curb the menace,” Sharma said.

Alarmed at the growing incidence of trafficking in women and children in Odisha, the state government in December 2009 formulated a policy to address the issue. “The policy provides adequate steps for psychological support, economic empowerment and reintegration to ensure that the rescued victims of trafficking do not get drawn into the trade again due to non-availability of other options for livelihood,” said a police officer.

“Though the government established the units, child and women trafficking continues unabated. The government should appoint police officers to exclusively investigate such cases,” said Rutuparna Mohanty, a social activist. “Most women and children are trafficked to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Chhatisgarh and in some cases to Andhra Pradesh, where they are sexually exploited,” Mohanty said.

Brutalised migrants of western Odisha

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU
The chopping off of the palms of two migrant workers is a wake-up call

The gruesome incident of the chopping off of the palms of two migrant labourers of Kalahandi district of western Odisha by the labour contractor mafia in December 2013 should serve as a wake-up call. The incident highlights the ruthless extent to which the mafia can go to meet its ends and brings home the fact that more than 60 years after Independence, the poorest in our country still remain woefully unprotected.

The incident took place after the workers, who had taken an advance from a labour contractor to work in the brick kilns of Hyderabad, got into a dispute with him regarding the payment and place of work. When the dispute could not be resolved, two of them had to pay this terrible price. Gruesome as it is in itself, the incident is but the proverbial tip of the iceberg of a sordid modern day version of human trafficking and the slave trade, exploiting the most vulnerable and robbing them of their dignity. Yes, the police have arrested some of those responsible and the administration has further taken action to stop migrants from going out. Unless more fundamental steps are taken, the impact of such punitive action is more than likely to be undone by the migrants themselves, who see no choice but to hit the migration trail.

Distress-induced

The Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region of western Odisha has long been known for all the wrong reasons — starvation deaths, drought, famines, poverty and distress, and, over the past six years or so, Maoism. With unproductive landholdings and very few means of sustenance, the rural poor are plunged into crisis every year. Their only option is to migrate to other States in search of work. Among the most favoured destinations for them are the brick kilns firing the construction boom in cities such as Hyderabad. A well-entrenched chain of labour contractors and middlemen, starting from dons based in Andhra Pradesh and going down to touts located in the interior villages of the KBK districts, organise the trafficking of labour from these villages to the cities. Every year, after the 60-day paddy crop is harvested around the beginning of September, comes the festival of nuakhai, meaning “eating new rice,” an old tradition of western Odisha. Poor families take an advance from the labour contractors at this time. Soon after, men, women and children start migrating in large numbers to pay off this advance by offering their labour to the contractors. A documentary produced by the National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations on MGNREGA movingly depicts the lives, journeys and choices of these families. They live on brick kiln sites in makeshift shanties, braving the harsh weather with no protection. With no toilets and no sources of drinking water, these sites are hotbeds of misery and disease. Sexual exploitation of women is rampant. On the journey, travelling with their belongings and children in overcrowded trains, people lose life and limb. Attempts to escape from the work site can meet with instant and ruthless reprisal as the two migrants found out. Children are preferred in the brickmaking industry because they are short, so while filling brickmaking frames with mud, they need not bend down like adults. Also, when freshly made bricks are piled up, there is no space for an adult to walk and overturn the bricks for drying. Children can walk on top of the bricks and overturn them without causing damage. So, the labour is contracted according to the traditional pathariya system, where pathariya is a work unit comprising a man, a woman and one or two children. And, in the process, every law of the land is violated to keep India shining.

A study carried out in Nuapada district of western Odisha, at the request of the district authorities some years ago, concluded that the out-migration is distress-induced. That this needed to be established may look ridiculous at first sight. But the significance of this conclusion cannot be underlined enough, for sadly, in government circles, an unwritten code prohibits acceptance of the distress nature of this migration. The logic is deadly simple — if this migration is accepted as distress-induced, the responsibility rests with the administration to stop it. The study further estimated that more than half the rural population in the district is migrant, with more than one-third of these migrants being women and about 13 per cent being children. This human trafficking fetches the touts, middlemen and mafia dons huge profits, with the turnover of the migration industry of western Odisha estimated to be more than Rs.500 crore per annum. An industry of this size cannot exist, let alone thrive, without the patronage of the powerful. And it is widely known in the area that political vested interests, cutting across party lines, are firmly behind this organised racket. No wonder then, that the study on Nuapada was dead before arrival! A look at the way migrant labour is forced to live at migration sites, however, should permanently put to rest any notion that these people will prefer to migrate if they actually have a choice. The point is that they migrate because they do not have a choice. And the tragedy is that being prisoners of circumstance, they too have started believing that this is indeed a choice they are making.

Toward sustainable livelihoods

But the work of several civil society organisations acting in close connect with these migrant families in Nuapada and Bolangir districts shows that given an alternative these people will never go back to “Hyderabad,” a synonym in their eyes of what can go terribly wrong with their lives. Such work also holds out the promise of the change that can be made to happen if the administration decides to muster the requisite will. These organisations have mobilised the rural poor to form MGNREGA wage-seeker committees. These committees try to ensure that MGNREGA plans are made according to priorities that the village community decides, that work is opened on time and wage payments are not delayed. Working closely with selected gram panchayats, these organisations have helped to create assets for sustainable livelihoods of the poor. The results, though on a small scale, are there for all to see. Farm ponds made at a modest cost of Rs.30,000 or so, have provided protective irrigation to the paddy crop and stopped distress migration for several hundred families, in some cases, reversing a trend which has been going on for two or three generations. Enterprising farmers have topped up this public investment with private investment and use the water remaining in the farm ponds after the harvest of the paddy crop for fish-farming and growing vegetables in their backyards. In some cases, community water harvesting structures have helped to give protective irrigation to several hundred acres of paddy fields downstream. Assured employment and timely wages have given workers the confidence that they can break the stranglehold of the contractors. The documentary referred to earlier, and screened in Bolangir and Nuapada districts in several village and panchayat meetings, helped to sensitise the administration and panchayat leaders to the fragile existence of these migrants. Officers with fire in their belly resolved to work hand-in-hand with civil society to leverage MGNREGA so as to stem this migration. In May 2013, the Odisha Panchayati Raj Department, after meetings with these migrant families, announced that the job guarantee would be extended to 150 days per family in the districts of Bolangir and Nuapada. Micro-plans for 150 villages were made with the support of civil society. But, tragically, the officers who had shown the courage to take on the mafia were soon transferred, giving credence to the belief that “big brother” is still all powerful.

But as these examples show, a lot can be done, with the requisite political and administrative will and imaginative partnerships with civil society. The State government needs to ensure that there are dedicated human resources to execute well-made MGNREGA and rural livelihood plans. A provision for this has been made through the Cluster Facilitation Teams provided for under MGNREGA 2.0. Without this capacity in place, extending the job guarantee beyond 100 days is unlikely to go very far. It further needs to work in mission mode for ensuring outcomes, for if employment opportunities or wage payments are delayed, the migrants will go back to the migration route. In its efforts, the government should partner with civil society to achieve better quality of outcomes. All this requires that the distress nature of this migration is first accepted. And that, in line with the recent Supreme Court ruling, officers are provided a minimum security of tenure so that the best of them may be chosen for the task of reconstructing rural Odisha.

(Pramathesh Ambasta is convener, National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations on MGNREGA.)

Sale…Sale….

ei samay 3

EI SAMAY

It’s 1 a.m. I peep through my burkha to scan the nearly empty street. I’m a bit frightened. After all, this is Delhi. Post-nirbhaya Delhi.

But fear won’t aid me today as I wait under the designated light post.

Oily hair. Faded shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Dirty jeans. The man I am waiting for, approaches swiftly. Then an urgent whisper, ‘C-337′ (this was the code given to me, the buyer, for that particular girl. that is how the traffickers work, through code names and numbers).

‘Never ever reveal your identity’, I had been told. I tiptoe with the conversation accordingly. The details of the trade slowly start emerging. I ask him his name. Suddenly he is pissed off.

‘Are naam se kya lena dena? maine kuch pucha kya? kam hone se to matlab…’ I quickly relent. True. Why do I need names when I get the girl? We start talking business.

Business, that is bargaining. He asks me, ‘kab lagega? kaisi chahiye – dubli-patli-gori-kali..?’

I am caught off the guard. Didn’t expect such direct queries. First time at this, you see! Gathering myself, I specify, ‘thin, fair. Should be good in household work. It’s for the agency…’

‘Consider your job done. Come back after a couple of days. 3 lakhs is the price. Agreed..?’

I was speechless for a while. The value of one woman is 3 lakhs? I try to clarify, ‘I need just one girl. 3 lakhs bahot zada nahi hai..?’

He is unrelenting. Everything is getting pricier these days. Why would girls be any different? It seems I am losing the bargain. The pimp is clear – he has to make many pockets happy. The price cannot be lessened. I give in. the deal is struck. (This also I was told beforehand, not to bargain too much. If I peeve the pimp out, our mission won’t be accomplished.)

He tells me to come back after 2 days. Same spot on G.B. Road, Delhi. He takes my number, doesn’t give his.

The streets are deserted now. But not the shacks lining the road. They are brimming with clients. Clients of woman flesh. Sound of a brawl drifts out from one of the rooms. The babu and the kothi malkin are in dispute over the rates.

This is G.B. Road. The prostitution haven of the national capital, where everyday countless girls pour in from every corner of the country. Rather, they are forced to. Once their purses have been filled, the police chooses to look away. How many girls are trafficked thus every day? No cohesive statistics is possible. The numbers are too huge.

From the conversations it was not clear how the pimp would supply me the girl. But it’s not tough to gather. The girls, more than usually from the poorest of poor backgrounds, are lured in and then trapped by offers and promises they cannot refuse. And then they pass on from hand to hand to reach their destination, pre-ordained by the codes and numbers.

Sometimes it’s marriage. Sometimes the lure of a well-paid job. Promise of a lovely future. Promise of visiting the Taj mahal.

Love is the most common and effective technique here. One of the traffickers makes friends with one of the young beauties in the village. How? Her mobile number is tracked from one of the villagers who had been spying on her from before. The missed calls from an unknown number start. 7-8 times a day. With that, texts declaring undying love.

The rest is accomplished by her tender age and inexperience. Soon they meet in person. By now the girl is completely trapped in the web of love. The ‘boyfriend’, leveraged by her trust, then spreads the net some more. He takes her out to a fair.

Police and N.G.O statistics show, village fairs are the hotspots for targeting and trafficking victims. Specially the Durgapuja and Charak fairs. How does it happen? In the fair, suddenly some other ‘friends’ of the ‘boyfriend’ appear. At designated time, the ‘boyfriend’ receives an urgent call that requires him to go off for a while. The girl stays on with the ‘friends’. One of them buys her cold drink, which usually contains a specific kind of drug. A variant of the date rape drug prevalent in the west, these drugs can knock you unconscious for at least 48 hours. The unsuspecting victim drinks and falls prey.

By the time the drug wears off, the girl is already in an unknown place like Delhi, Mumbai or Pune. She then is passed on and on, finally to the main supplier. From there, some prostitute’s kothi or domestic help agency or a beggar racket becomes her new address.

The trafficking racket functions with such precision and organization. After the amendment of criminal laws of the country, human trafficking is considered ‘organized crime’. But the ground reality remains unchanged.

2 days after I received a call from an unknown number. The C-337 supplier. He directed me to be present on the same spot with the money. That night, I, in the guise of Fatima Bibi was present there with 3 lakh rupees. With me were two officers from the anti-human trafficking unit.

A 14 year old girl was rescued that day. The supplier was arrested. Trial is on.

But the story doesn’t end here. Most of the time these pimps are let off. The reason? Witnesses don’t turn up. There’s the fear of social stigma. Also of retribution from the racket. In many cases traffickers are aided by the police itself. They prepare the escape route by constructing weak cases. A senior officer of the Delhi Police, in strict condition of anonymity, revealed, ‘many of our officers help those rackets. They receive money from those rackets. The kothi maiks have bought them off.’

But why do they do this? Such shameless objectification of human beings, where the value of a girl is decided by her complexion and body? What are the perks?

For every girl trafficked, the small-time pimps acquire 50-70 thousand rupees. The middling ones get about a lakh. The rest goes to the big players. About 7-8 girls are trafficked every year. Why would they do anything else!

C-337 was a lucky girl. She could go back to her parents. But the Fatima Bibis don’t reach every girl. And there are too many of them. Each day, the numbers grow.

Info

  • The network is so vast that the big players never get caught. The small-time pimps and suppliers are arrested most often
  • The racket works in four points – source-transit-collection point-destination
  • The people working in each point do not have any information on how the other points are working. Each zone works separately, with local sources

How the racket works

  • Targeting the girl/girls
  • Planning and bringing the girl till the transit point (this does not happen in every case)
  • Bringing the girl close to the destination
  • On reaching destination, supplying the girl to the buyer