Trafficked girl awaits aid after 3yrs

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Guwahati Telegraph By Pankaj Sarma

Sept. 9: Almost three years after she was rescued from Haryana, a 20-year-old victim of human trafficking from Assam is still awaiting assistance from the state government for her rehabilitation.
Rekha (name changed), who hails from Hajo in Kamrup district, is now struggling for a livelihood as she is yet to get any form of help from the government despite repeated pleas. “Without any source of income, I have become a burden on my family,” she told The Telegraph.

As a result, she is finding it difficult to arrange even two square meals a day for herself and her two-year-old son. Rekha, who was trafficked to Haryana and forced into marriage, was rescued by Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based anti-trafficking NGO, with the help of Haryana police from Shahpur in Haryana’s Jind district on October 4, 2011.

Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini told The Telegraph that she had written many times to the state government seeking help so that she can sustain herself and take care of her child but till date her efforts have yielded no result.

“After prolonged persuasion, joint secretary of the social welfare department M. Baruah wrote an official letter to the director of the department, Dilip Borthakur, on March 5 this year asking him to look into the matter and do the needful,” he said.

“Six months have passed since then, but unfortunately nothing came of it,” Kant rued. When contacted, Borthakur said one of his officers, who is looking into the matter, is currently on leave.
“I would be able to tell you about its present status only after he returns from leave,” he said.

Rishi Kant said Rekha was trafficked when she was 17 with the lure of a job since she was from a very poor family. “After that she was forced to marry a person named Rakesh, who not only sexually abused her but also forced her to do all the household chores,” he said. At the time of her rescue, Rekha was five months pregnant. According to Kant, they reunited Rekha with her family and sent her back home.

Girls rescued from Delhi Rajdhani

index.phpPUBLISHED IN THE HINDU- BY SHIV SAHAY SINGH
The Committee in its order directed that statements of the girls be recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC on their return to the State.

The rescue of three teenage girls in Delhi has once again brought to the fore the problem of trafficking from West Bengal. They rescued girls hail from Gobardanga in North 24 Parganas district.

Huddled inside a toilet of Sealdah-Delhi Rajdhani Express, the girls between 13 and 16 years arrived in Delhi on September 4. But before they could fall into the trap of traffickers, the police took them under their protective custody.

The three Class VIII students were produced before a Child Welfare Committee in Central Delhi on Monday. The Committee directed that a police officer who had reached Delhi from West Bengal should escort the girls to their homes and put them back in school. The Committee in its order directed that statements of the girls be recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC on their return to the State. “Though the girls said that they wanted to escape home, there are inconsistencies in the statement. References to an aunt of one of the three girls who was earlier working as a bar dancer have also emerged in the conversation with them,” Rishi Kanta an activist of Shakti Vahini, told The Hindu over phone from Delhi. When the matter came to the notice of the representatives of the NGO, they informed the West Bengal Government, which sent a police team to Delhi.

“It is a matter of concern how three minor girls reached Delhi, a long way from West Bengal and that too by the Rajdhani Express. Nothing could be revealed during discussion, whether the Ticket Examiner examined their ticket or not. The girls said they came without ticket,” reads a letter addressed to West Bengal Women and Child Development Department and the State’s Criminal Investigation Department by a representative of Shakti Vahini.

As trafficking of women and children continues to be a major concern of the State, NGO representatives suggested that strict vigil should be ensured at every railway station in the State to prevent such cases.

Human trafficking: A phone call to the heart of darkness

trafficking--621x414PUBLISHED IN THE MINT : By Ashwaq Masoodi

Siliguri: It usually starts with a missed call. When the call is returned, the person at the other end of the phone compliments the caller on, say, her voice. Unlike a normal relationship, these “phone relationships” in poor villages of North Bengal take quick leaps. Within a day or two, the person who had given the missed call proposes marriage to the teenager. He doesn’t want to wait. They must elope. There is a promise of love, faithfulness and always a better life in a big city. It’s a promise that is false. As many as 82,101 children went missing across India in 2013-14 (till February), of whom 48,688 were from West Bengal, according to government figures.

A 2004 report by the National Human Rights Commission on trafficking of women and children said that one-third of children reported missing every year in India remained untraced and that many of these were trafficked. Child labour, illegal adoption and prostitution are the main reasons why children go missing. According to National Crime Records Bureau data, 3,940 cases were registered in 2013 under different provisions of the law that come under the generic description of human trafficking. Many of those trafficked end up as domestic workers, working in slave-like conditions. Placement agencies illegally earn Rs.13,000-41,000 crore per year by exploiting an estimated 7-17 million domestic child labourers, according to a report, Economics Behind Forced Labour Trafficking, by Global March Against Child Labour, a non-governmental organization (NGO). “In the National Capital Region, the estimated number of registered and unregistered placement agencies is around 3,000. At least 30% of these engage child labour. Each agency is able to place 60-100 children as domestic workers every year. The agencies receive commissions of Rs.20,000-50,000 per child. They pay the child anywhere between Rs.1,500 and Rs.4,500 per month. This money, too, is often kept by the agency and does not reach the child,” the report states.

On 27 May, a 16-year-old and her family went to attend a wedding, just a few miles from her house in Buraganj village, 32km from Siliguri. Among the guests was Rani, a woman in her 30s, dressed in a gaudy sari encrusted with sparkling crystals, and in distinctive, bright make-up. All eyes were on her and everyone speculated on what she did for a living. Over the wedding meal, Rani started a conversation with the teenager. She asked for her phone number and a photograph. The teenager handed over her details along with a crumpled passport-size photograph she had somewhere in her bag. Two days later, the teenager received a missed call, and called back. The man at the other end introduced himself as Mahesh Mardi. He said a mutual friend had given him her number and photograph. He was already in love with her, he said. Never having received such compliments and flattery before, the teenager believed every word. The youngest of eight siblings, the teenager grew up pampered with hardly any housework to do. The family is not poor by the standards of their village. All the brothers work, some in their own fields, others in the tea gardens close by. The family has cattle, lives in houses built of mud, bamboo and tin, the children have bicycles and the women wear gold. Three days after their first conversation, Mahesh asked the teenager to come to Naxalbari, which is located towards the north of her village. She happily said yes. When she reached, four people including Mahesh and Rani were waiting. Alarmed at seeing so many people, the teenager faltered; she said she wanted to go back home. But Mahesh swore undying love; he would consume poison if she didn’t come with him, he swore. Even more panic-stricken, the teenager tried to run, but Rani held her hand and pulled her into a bus headed to New Jalpaiguri railway station, 32km from her village. At the station, they gave her some food to eat while they waited for a train to New Delhi. Since everyone else was eating, she didn’t suspect anything. The next thing she remembers is waking up at 3am the following day. They were in Delhi. From there it was a short auto ride to a placement agency. Placement agencies rely on sub-agents such as Rani who provide them with information and “recruits”. How much the sub-agent earns depends on the “quality” of the recruit, in terms of how good looking they are. Along with local muscle like Mahesh, the sub-agents take new recruits like the teenager to the nearest bus or railway station to take them to their destination or else hand them over to either a new sub-agent who completes the journey. Moving through several hands, the recruits then land up at the so-called placement agencies for “employment”, a euphemism for slave wages and working conditions, as domestic workers. In Delhi, the teenager was kept in the placement office for a day before she was assigned to an employer. “I said I wouldn’t work. But they didn’t listen to me,” she says. Boys and girls are taken from tea gardens or poor villages to places such as Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Bangalore, Kerala, Kashmir, Bhutan and Sikkim with a promise of jobs or a better life. Nearly 3,600 children from poor families in the shut-down tea gardens of West Bengal migrated to Indian cities and West Asia, to work mostly as child labourers in 2010-11.

Of the total, 317 have gone missing, according to a study carried out jointly by the Unicef, Save the Children (an NGO) and Burdwan University, across 12 tea gardens in the state. The study was carried out between May and July 2011. When no one came to take her back, the 16-year-old told her employer that she had been forced by Rani to take up the job. Infuriated on hearing this, the owner called the placement agency, which decided to send Rani to work on the teenager’s behalf. But within a couple of days, Rani tricked the teenager into believing that she wouldn’t have to work for more than a week, and fled after the 16-year-old resumed her work. Left with no option, the teenager called her brother saying: “I have been sold.” According to the US department of state’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, in India, an increasing number of job placement agencies lure adults and children for sex trafficking or forced labour, including domestic servitude, under false promises of employment. “Activists estimate 20% of domestic workers who are rescued from Delhi homes complain of sexual abuse, either by the employer or those in job placement agencies,” the report said. Following the name of the placement agency that the teenager had given on the phone, her maternal uncle and brother filed a first information report (FIR) and headed to Delhi. “We kept calling. It was frustrating because we didn’t even know where to start from,” her maternal uncle, who is a tea garden manager, says. The girl was eventually rescued in a joint operation by NGO Shakti Vahini and West Bengal Police. Nearly a month after her rescue, Rani was arrested as well.

What happens in such cases, NGOs claim, is that only the destination trafficker is arrested and the entire chain of people involved or the racket isn’t busted—which means the investigating officers stop after arrests in the destination states. And because of gaps in investigation, acquittals take place. Furthermore, poor victim-witness protection generally discourages victims from testifying against their alleged trafficking offenders. “For every case of human trafficking, we should involve all the law enforcement agencies across the country and network with them so that all the traffickers from the source area till the destination area are booked,” says Shakti Vahini’s Ravi Kant, a Supreme Court lawyer. Even though a few states have victim compensation schemes, due to inadequate implementation, victims have to wait for several years to receive funds. “The criminal justice system in India is more focused on punishment for the perpetrator. Police efforts are towards punishing. There is no care and protection for the victim. The victim is left on her own to fight her battle. Even if a case reaches the trial level, summons from the place where she was arrested reach her, but not the money. She has to come on her own. In most cases, the state is not a facilitator in getting justice… All this discourages the victims. And if the victim doesn’t take interest, in several cases, it leads to acquittals,” says Kant.

The government has set up the Anti Trafficking Cell under the ministry of home affairs (MHA), launched a certificate course on anti-human trafficking under Indira Gandhi National Open University in partnership with the MHA, and implemented a comprehensive scheme for strengthening law enforcement response by establishing integrated anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs). The ministry released funds—Rs.8.72 crore and Rs.8.33 crore in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively, for the establishment of 225 AHTUs. The ministry of women and child development also runs shelter-based homes, such as short-stay homes, and Swadhar homes for women in difficult circumstances, including trafficked victims. The teenager has started going to school again. She says something happens in her spine whenever she tries to dredge up the memory of those 15 days. “I wouldn’t listen to anyone now. I will not let anyone befool me again,” she stammers. Her maternal uncle says that after this incident, even though she is safe and with her family now, she is traumatized. “She cannot complete even one sentence without stopping more than once or without forgetting while speaking,” he says. Over the last few years, many cases of exploitation of domestic help have been reported—almost all of them females—many of whom were abused, some brutally. Early this year, an 11-year-old domestic help from Uttar Pradesh was allegedly starved for days and tortured by her employers (in Thane), who inserted green chillies into her genitals to make her obey their orders. A civil engineer in Bangalore was booked in August for physically and mentally harassing an 18-year-old domestic help in his house. Even though the teenager is still traumatized, she was at least lucky to have escaped; not every story has a happy ending in such cases.

Human trafficking caters to demand for brides

PRP _5014by priyanka-k7YE--621x414@LiveMint

PUBLISHED IN THE MINT : By Ashwaq Masoodi

A field study in Haryana found that over 9,000 married women were bought from other states

Jhajjar/New Jalpaiguri: Last year, she was raped by someone she called mausa (uncle) in front of and on the bed of a woman she called mausi (aunt). Then, the mausa sold her off as a bride to a 45-year-old widower, father of a three-year-old, in Haryana. Price of the exchange: Rs.70,000. Haryana, with the country’s worst sex ratio of 879 girls to 1,000 boys, now has to increasingly import brides from poverty-stricken states such as Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. It’s the same story in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where female foeticide is high and the sex ratio skewed. According to the 2013 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, 24,749 children and women between the ages of 15 and 30 were kidnapped and sold into marriage across the country.

Hundreds of girls and young women are sold into forced marriages in northern India, finds a report by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Shakti Vahini. “They are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity, and exploited under conditions that amount to a modern form of slavery,” the report states. A field study on the impact of the sex ratio on marriage by NGO Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra that covered over 10,000 households in Haryana found that over 9,000 married women were bought from other states. The study, which covered 92 villages of Mahendragarh, Sirsa, Karnal, Sonepat and Mewat districts, said that most people accepted this as a common practice, even though they personally denied having purchased a bride in their family.

With its blend of poverty, illiteracy, naiveté, trust and betrayal, the story of this family in North Bengal is being repeated in countless villages across India. An old, ailing mother, an estranged son, a 23-year-old illiterate, unmarried daughter, another daughter, and a deaf and mute son—the family’s sole breadwinner making no more than Rs.80 a day by working in a tea plantation.

Most households in the Darjeeling hills and the Dooars-Terai region located in the foothills of the Himalayas depend on the 300-odd plantations located here. In the late 1990s, when tea leaf prices dropped, many owners cut wages and, in some cases, abandoned their plantations altogether. By 2003-04, many tea estates had shut down. Newspapers reported starvation deaths; according to The Times of India, nearly 100 people have died of starvation and acute malnutrition in the five gardens closed in the Dooars since January last year. Five died in June alone. Tall with sharp features and long hair, the 23-year-old lives in a village in Banarhat, nearly 95km from Siliguri. She walks with difficulty and complains of soreness and a constant stomach ache. The weakness caused by malnutrition is evident. Those who could afford to migrate did. But for this family with its physically disabled son, migration was not an option and so they stayed on, even though there were days when the chulha (cook stove) could not be lit. The so-called mausa, Rajendra Pal, lived next door. Originally from Haryana, he had married the teenager’s neighbour by hiding the fact of his previous marriages. It was Rajendra Pal who suggested the family make a trip to Haryana to see a famous godman who, he claimed, would cure them of their chronic problems. He even offered to pay for their travel. The girl was reluctant. “I kept saying I am a woman. They wouldn’t do anything to my mother. They couldn’t have taken anything from my brother. But I am a woman. They can do anything they want to with me, and I will be ruined for life,” she says she told her mother. But Rajendra Pal persisted. She was like his daughter, he said. Just stepping into the godman’s ashram would cure her problems. Why, the godman had even healed mausa’s leg after an accident, he said. The family relented. “The problem with us poor people is that we trust very easily, and we trust everyone,” says the 23-year-old’s elder sister. Three days after they reached Haryana, mausa locked the girl’s mother and brother in a room and raped the 23-year-old. “Mausi was watching and kept asking me not to cry. Let him do what he wants. He is your mausa,” the girl says. Two days later, Pal sold her to a 45-year-old resident of Kheri Mansingh village in Karnal district of Haryana and married the two off in his lawn. He told the girl he would kill her if she tried to run away. There was nowhere to run to. Once, she said, she hid in a maize field for close to 24 hours, hungry and thirsty and soaked in sludge till her waist. She thought she had escaped till they found her again. “I had to do all the household chores—cleaning the house, cooking, rearing the cattle and a horse—and still they kept complaining,” she says.

Brides for sale Large-scale bride trafficking has been taking place in Haryana, Punjab and other low-sex-ratio states for over two decades, say NGOs. Even if the Haryana government ensures that not a single sex-determination test or sex-selective abortion takes place, demographers believe it will take 50 years for the population to stabilize and return to its natural ratio. The challenge before not just Haryana but also western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan is to ensure that bride demand is not catered through human trafficking. “The governments in these regions should ensure legislations which protect the rights of women and children,” the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s anti-trafficking report released in 2013 states.

Many men in Haryana, however, claim that the shortage of brides is not caused by the skewed sex ratio as much as the rising levels in women’s education.“Women here study much more than men do. And she obviously will want to marry a man who has studied at least as much as she has, if not more. This is making it increasingly difficult for lesser educated men to find brides,” says Vinod Bala Dhankar, a social activist and woman khap leader based in Jhajjar district of Haryana. Moreover, bringing in a molki, or purchased bride, actually works out cheaper. “Even if you are poor, you would give a bride from Haryana gold worth at least Rs.1.5 lakh plus clothes and other gifts. But for a molki you only pay for a mangalsutra and a gold ring,” says Dhankar. Strict caste and marriage rules among the Jats of Haryana also place restrictions on marriages between two people from within the same gotra, same village or even adjoining villages. This, too, limits the options before the state’s marriageable men. Faced with these limitations, organized groups of unmarried youth have sprung up in the state with famous slogans such as bahu-dilao-vote-lo (brides-for-votes).

The Kunwara Union (Unmarried Youth Organization) was founded five years ago by social activist Pawan Kumar. A similar outfit, Avivahit Purush Sangthan (Unmarried Union), was set up by Bibipoor village panchayat head Sunil Jaglan to look into the issue of gender imbalance caused by female foeticide. Dhakla village in Haryana’s Jhajjar district has a population of nearly 4,000 people. A narrow, dusty, single lane leads to Rekha’s house. She has tied a dupatta around her head in the form of a bandana, and speaks Haryanavi as fluently and with as much confidence as the locals. In 2007, she came to Sonepat from North Bengal, after her cousin invited her to visit. The day she arrived, she was sold off for Rs.50,000. But Rekha bursts into laughter at the suggestion that she was sold. “I don’t want to think of what happened. Probably I wouldn’t have had such a happy life if I was still with my family. We were very poor,” she says.

Just half a mile from Rekha’s house lives another woman, nearly 30 years old. Five years ago, her sister sold her off to a man who had two brothers, one older and one younger. The two brothers have decided not to marry. The woman, who does not want to be named, says her husband beats her up almost every night and has asked her more than once to leave. Worse, within a month of her marriage, the elder brother tried to rape her. Just last month, he sexually assaulted her again, she says. Even the younger brother has assaulted her twice.

“The scarcity of women has been there for long. But earlier, if a family had four brothers, they would just get one woman and she would take care of everyone and everything,” says Om Parkash Dhankar, Sarv Khap Panchayat coordinator in Haryana. Since the women are “purchased”, men think they can do whatever they want to with them. “In the beginning, brides were imported from adjoining regions like Ganganagar and Rajasthan’s Alwar area, but slowly women were brought from West Bengal, Assam and such states,” says Rakesh Senger from NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan. “These women do not go back to their native places and so their husbands do not feel accountable to anyone. They think they can do anything with them and no one will question them. Because they have purchased them, these women serve both as sex slaves as well as labour slaves for these men.”

Recently, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Kisan Morcha president O.P. Dhankar stoked a controversy by saying his party would get girls from Bihar for the unmarried young men of Haryana. More than a month after his controversial statement, Dhankar says: “We cannot stop migration. What we should look for is ways to legalize this process. I think both the source and the destination states should make it mandatory to register these inter-state marriages.”

On September 16 last year, when the 23-year-old was working in the kitchen, she heard someone shout her name. It was her sister accompanied by Haryana Police and NGO Shakti Vahini. When the villagers learned about the joint rescue operation, a huge crowd gathered around her house with knives and sticks, shouting that they wouldn’t let anyone take their bride away as they had paid for her and she was their property. Under police protection, the 23-year-old was brought to the local thana. “Finally I was free. It felt like nothing worse could happen to me any more,” she says. And then a pregnancy test confirmed that she was pregnant. The child, she says, is Pal’s, who is now out on bail. Even though nothing legally stops an investigating officer from conducting an investigation anywhere in the country, Pal has relocated to West Bengal, out of the reach of Haryana Police. “They forced us to withdraw the case against Pal’s wife by emotionally blackmailing us, saying she has a small child,” the 23-year-old’s elder sister says. “But my sister’s life is ruined. Nothing happened to the people who did this to her. When an item in the market is damaged or has some flaw, no one wants it…there are no buyers.”

Tips to tackle trafficking

SHAKTI VAHINI SILIGURI

PUBLISHED IN THE TELEGRAPH

Aug. 26: A Delhi-based NGO is organising programmes across schools in north Bengal in collaboration with district administrations to sensitise adolescents to human trafficking which is rampant in the region, especially in the tea garden belt. Shakti Vahini has already covered 300 government schools in the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Malda in the first-phase of the programme that was started around one-and-a-half years ago.

“The programme will be implemented in four phases in which we intend to cover all schools in north Bengal. We felt the need to start the outreach programme as human trafficking is rampant in the region. The region is vulnerable to human trafficking because it comprises tea gardens whose workers are poor. North Bengal shares border with Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, another reason for increased cases of human trafficking,” said Rishi Kant, the executive director of Shakti Vahini.

He said the sensitisation programme was being held in schools as adolescents were the victims of trafficking. Today, the NGO conducted an interactive session as part of the sensitisation programme for 600 students from Class VI to Class XII at Atharokhai Uchha Balika Vidyalaya at Shivmandir in Matigara near here.

“We are conducting one session at a school on a daily basis. At the programmes, the representatives of the NGO speak to the students about the dangers of human trafficking. They are told to be alert to suspicious persons who promise high salaries in lieu of work in cites across the country. The students are also provided with helpline numbers of police and NGO officials to contact them in case they come across human trafficking racketeers in their locality. They are also provided with leaflets with the instructions and helpline numbers,” said Kant.

He said the programme was being implemented in association with respective district administrations. According to Kant, it is imperative that teachers and students keep track of children who are absent from classes for long. He said half of the 800 people rescued by Shakti Vahini from the clutches of human traffickers in various states of north India belong to Bengal.

“Victims of human trafficking from Bengal are taken to destination like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Children trafficked from Bengal are employed as domestic helps in the cities by illegal placement agencies. We have come across cases in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where minor girls trafficked from north Bengal are forced to marry men double their age because of the skewed sex ratio in those states,” said the NGO

J’khand teen raped in Delhi went missing from school a month ago

HT 27 AUGUST 2014

BY SAURAV ROY IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Parents of the 14-year-old girl from a Jharkhand village who was trafficked, raped in Delhi and dumped in Gurgaon said she went to school about a month ago and did not return.

Her parents said they did not approach the police at that time, fearing the wrath of a few local criminals who were into human trafficking.

The girl was a class 7 student in a small government-aided school in her nondescript Gumla village, said her father, a farmer. The Gumla admitted the teenager went missing from school.

“Our investigation suggests she went missing from school. Our team will leave for Delhi to bring her back,” said Gumla superintendent of police, Bheemsen T.

The officer in-charge of the police station concerned that the police questioned the school authorities.

The girl who was rescued from the MG Road metro station on Sunday late night by Gurgaon police and NGO Shakti Vahini in a joint operation, disclosed that she was placed at a household in Delhi where she first time met Sanju, an auto driver who stayed in the neighbourhood.

She said that on Saturday Sanju lured her out of the house, promising a good time outside. Sanju took her to a secluded place, raped her and later dumped her near a metro station, she said.

The girl told the Gurgaon CWC that she was taken to Delhi by a woman, possibly a trafficking agent, who provides jobs to minors in the village. She, however, could not name the woman.

The teenager could not narrate how she went missing from school and eventually landed in Delhi. She said she was yet to be paid by her employers.

While medical report confirms rape, the Gurgaon police said she had had sexual intercourse several times in the past. This raised speculation of her being sexually exploited by her employers and placement agents.

Traffickers lure Jharkhand school girls to Delhi

HT 28 AUGUST 2014BY SAURAV ROY IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Trafficking gangs hang around schools to lure girls with sweets and gifts to the national capital. This shocking revelation has been made by several girls who had gone missing and had been rescued by the Jharkhand police from Delhi recently.

A 14 year-old girl from Gumla who was dumped in Delhi after being allegedly raped by traffickers is the latest victim of this disturbing trend, as are the six teenagers from Latehar district who had gone missing from school and were brought back to Jharkhand from the national capital a fortnight ago.

“They said good food, gifts and better life awaits us in Delhi,” a minor girl who was forced to work as a domestic help at a posh locality in New Delhi has told NGOs and the police.

Men and women in their thirties spotted around schools get friendly with girls and offer them sweets, snacks and even gifts, the girls have said.

The father of one of the six girls had lodged a complaint against one Rekha Devi with the Manika police station in Latehar on January 13, 2014, alleging that Devi had lured his 12 year-old daughter to Delhi. HT has a copy of the FIR.

“The increase in the cases of girls going missing from schools hints at involvement of human trafficking agents,” said a senior police official from Latehar, wishing anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

According to records with the Missing Child Helpline, a joint initiative of the Jharkhand CID, Unicef and NGOs, out of the total 127 cases of missing children registered in the past six months, 27 had gone missing from schools.

The police are yet to confirm whether school officials too had a hand in the disappearance of the girls, although school authorities said the girls did not go missing from school but could have been picked up on their way to school or home.

Rishi Kant, an anti-human trafficking activist from Delhi and a founder member of Shakti Vahini, said a majority of Jharkhand minors rescued by him in Delhi went missing from schools. He slammed the poor security at schools in rural Jharkhand.

In fact, trafficking kingpin Baba Bamdev, who ran more than 400 placement agencies in the National Capital Region NCR and was arrested in Khunti last week, had been spotted by anti-trafficking activists thrice near schools in Khunti and Simdega in the past six months, said Baijnath Kumar, an activist.

The police had arrested Bamdev on the basis of information provided by Kumar.