Missing and trafficked – Social activists blame political unrest, lack of jobs

Map of West Bengal

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Darjeeling, Feb. 21: The number of people missing from north Bengal has increased many times over in the past decade, triggering fears that more persons are being trafficked from the region than earlier.Social activists have blamed lack of job opportunities and political instability for the rise in the “missing” figures.

According to figures released by the Bengal CID in response to an RTI query filed by a Delhi-based anti-trafficking organisation, Shakti Vahini, the number of “missing” people in the state has gone up to 6,514 from 196 between 2001 and 2010. The most alarming figure the report has thrown up is not the increase in “missing” people in the whole state but the rise in the number in the six districts of north Bengal (see chart).

While only three missing cases were reported from the six north Bengal districts in 2001, the number was 1089 in 2010. “The situation is alarming in north Bengal and with the political instability, the closure of tea gardens and the abysmal condition of the tourism sector, these figures are bound to rise. It is time that a proactive intervention programme is devised for the region,” said Rishi Kant, a social activist associated with Shakti Vahini.

“Only yesterday, we rescued a minor from Balurghat who had been sold off to a placement agency in Gurgaon. We are in the process of lodging a police complaint in Delhi as the trafficker is based here. The minor is currently lodged in a protection home here in Gurgaon,” Kant said over the phone from Delhi.

Asked if the increase in the number of “missing” cases was actually a sign that the people were becoming more aware and were filing complaints in various police stations on the slightest suspicion, the activist replied in the negative. “The figures are only the tip of the iceberg and the numbers of complaints have increased because the number of trafficked people in every place has increased,” said Kant.

Shakti Vahini in a document titled “Missing Children and Women from West Bengal — An Overview”, has said that the number of missing children in the state has also increased from 4,621 to 8,599 between 2008 and 2010. “The state’s share of total industrial output in India was 9.8 per cent in 1980–81, declining to 5 per cent by 1997–98. However, the service sector has grown at a rate higher than the national rate. According to government estimates for 1999-2000, 27 per cent of Bengal’s population lived below poverty line,” the document stated hinting that lack of industrialisation has been the bane of the state.

In Bengal, North24-Paraganas and Nadia top the list of districts with the highest number of “missing people”. While only 53 people were shown as missing from North 24 Parganas in 2001, the number rose to 1,945 in 2010. From 13 the number has increased to 1227 for Nadia for the same years.

Although Ranvir Kumar, the inspector-general of police (north Bengal) could not be contacted for an immediate overview of the situation here, Kant said: “We have learnt that every district will be given a fund of Rs 30 lakh to start an anti-human trafficking cell. The fund is being made available from the Union home ministry.”



13-year-old West Bengal girl rescued from house in DLF-III

The girl child is happy as a rich person gave ...

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GURGAON: A 13-year-old girl, Shruti (name changed), a native of South Dinajpur district in West Bengal, was rescued by Childline from a house in DLF Phase III on Friday.

According to NGO officials, the victim was trafficked by one Sunil from her village a year back. The accused not only tortured and harassed her, but also physically abused her, said officials. A daily diary report has been filed in the case. The girl has been sent to the Aarushi home, meant for orphaned children. Nishi Kant, executive director of NGO Shakti Vahini which runs Childline in Gurgaon, said: The girl said that a person named Sunil brought her to Delhi on the pretext of giving her a job. Sunil employed her in a house at Sadar Bazar in Delhi as a domestic help.

Sunil also told her that she would be visiting her parents after two months. But when she approached him, Sunil refused to take her back to her home. The girl worked there for one year, but was never paid any money, added Kant. The girl was then brought to Gurgaon. Sunil put her in a rented house. Kant said that the girl told them that during this period, she was physically abused and harassed by Sunil.

Just four days before the rescue, she was again employed by Sunil at a house in DLF Phase-III. However, as this employer became doubtful of her age, he contacted Childline. The NGO will present the case with the Gurgaon Child Welfare Committee on Monday and also get an FIR registered in Delhi against Sunil.





Shakti Vahini, a national level voluntary organization which runs CHILDLINE (1098), Gurgaon collaborated and supported with PEDALYATRI group and GURGAON KI AWAZ – FM channel in Gurgaon in their initiative to organise a cycle rally from Gurgaon to Ajmer. The group of cyclists including professionals, Doctors, Lawyers etc. covered a journey of 320 kms from Gurgaon to Ajmer in 22 hours to generate Awareness on Child Labour/Child Trafficking.

To boost the morale of twelve residents, who cycled a distance of 320km from Gurgaon to Ajmer on February 5, an inauguration programme was held at Deputy Commissioner office at Mini Secretariat on Friday. At the programme, a street play was held to raise awareness on the cause, before the cycle journey was flagged off by Shri R S Kataria, DC Gurgaon. The mission of the campaign “Cycle to liberate Childhood” is to raise awareness against child labour and trafficking.

The citizen’s initiative is aimed to send a message that child labour is unacceptable in society. It is also to help bring joy to children who are forced to work in factories, dhabas and fields and worse still, as domestic help.

The program was supported by THE BODY SHOP. The Body Shop is currently running the “Stop Sex Trafficking” signature campaign to mobilize the masses in support of this cause.



The inauguration Programme:

The Programme was flagged off by Sh. Rajender Kumar Kataria, IAS, the Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon on 4th February, 2011 at 3pm at the Mini Secretariat, Gurgaon. As a part of the inauguration programme a street play was conducted at Deputy Commissioner’s Office at the Mini Secretariat. The programme was attended by the Child Welfare Officer, Gurgaon, the cyclists, representative from GURGAON KI AWAZ, three representatives from the Body Shop and nearly 100 residents of Gurgaon.

During his speech Mr. Kataria said, “The problem is very deep-rooted and despite many orders having been passed, it is still there. The solution to this problem lies in raising awareness among people. We are working on this, and at the same time, the administration will reiterate that no government officials should be, in any way, be a part of child labour.”

He added,” Child Labour should be fought by the NGOs with the support of the Residence Welfare Society as these societies are playing an important role in the society.” During his speech Shri Kataria requested all the citizen to call 1098, if they find any child in need of care and protection. A special thanks was given to the team of THE BODY SHOP Ms. Savita Dhami, Marketing Head, Mr. Suvendu Sahoo, Chief Financial Officer and Ms. Aastha Sharma, Values Head for lending  their helping hand all throughout the campaign. The rally was flagged off by Shri RK Kataria, DC Gurgaon..

The Journey Begins….

The cycle ride for 320 Kms. to Ajmer was started at 4am on February 5, 2011 from the Huda City Centre Metro Station. The cyclists were supported by 50 volunteers from Shakti Vahini, who undertook 6 street plays on the route to sensitize people on issues like child trafficking and child labour. The rally was supported by the Gurgaon Administration. The Haryana police arranged escort vehicle  from Huda City Centre till Haryana border. The schedule for the cyclists to cover 320 kms:

Touch points Start Arrival Breaks Departure
Huda City Centre 0 3:40 4:00
Manesway 22 5:06 3 mins. break 5:09
Dharubera 45 6:18 3 mins. break 6:21
20 km point 65 7:21 3 mins. break 7:24
Bawal Highway 83 8:18 22 mins. break 8:40
20 km point 103 9:40 3 mins. Break 9:43
20 km point 123 10:43 3 mins. Break 10:46
Pragpur 144 11:55 5 mins. Break 12:00
20 km point 154 13:00 5 mins. Break 13:05
Shahpura (After city) 174 14:15 10 mins. Break 14:25
Chanwaji (After city) 194 15:25 3 mins. Break 15:28
20 km point (Daulatpura) 214 16:28 3 mins. Break 16:31
Gopalpura Ajmer BP crossing 240 18:16 3 mins. Break 18:19
16 km point 256 19:19 3 mins. Break 19:22
16 km point 272 20:22 3 mins. Break 20:25
16 km point 288 21:25 5 mins. Break 21:30
16 km point 304 22:30 3 mins. Break 22:33
16 km point 320 23:33 10 mins. break 23:43

The cyclists reached the destination at 23:55 with a delay of 12 minutes.




Altogether 6street plays across the route from Gurgaon to Ajmer and one street play as a part of the inauguration programme in the Mini Secretariat added another feather in the Cap of the Awareness Programme, the Citizen’s initiative “CYCLE TO LIBERATE CHILDHOOD.” The street Plays were organized for creating the awareness to combat Child Labour and Child Trafficking among the people. Street Play is the best suited to explain to the villagers the kind of life a child labour is forced to lead and the hardships they face. The street plays were performed to create awareness about need for education, emphasizing on the need for improving access to education and quality of education, to eradicate child labour from the society. The performers used simple local language to make the villagers understand the issues more easily and effectively. This plays an important role in informing the parents about various tactics used by the traffickers for persuading them (parents) to send their children along.

To sensitize the children present there Shakti Vahini volunteers distributed pamphlets of CHILDLINE (1098) among the children as well as the present gathering.The street plays were organized at Behror, Kotputli, Shahpura, Daulatpura and Gopalpura. Through these plays mainly the village people were targeted as they are victims of many child abuses.Through this street play initiative approximately 5000 people are sensitized in different places. The gathering present there promised to share the message for anti child labour and ani child trafficking among their neighbors. Also 500 petition against Trafficking of Children were signed.

The play:

The street plays were started by a song on Child Trafficking for Labour supported by the instrument ‘Dafli.’ The mesmerizing sound of the instrument and the song sung by the performers attracted the gathering. The performers who are professionals in the field of acting showed in their play about the trafficking of a child and how he gets involved in the child labour and abused by his/her owner. The play also showed the conditions of the child labours in the city as well as the rural areas. The children are harassed by their employer for minor mistakes; they are being tortured, not being paid. Some of them are not even allowed to meet their parents. The play also pass the message that as the children are low paid, don’t take the decision of their exploitation they are always in demand for child labour. At the end of each play the pamphlets of CHILDLINE (1098) were distributed among the gathering and also requested them to call 1098 at any time if they find any child in need of care and protection.



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14-year-old trafficked Manipur girl rescued in Gurgaon


Gurgaon : A 14-year-old girl from Manipur who was trafficked and about to be sold off in a marriage here was rescued by the Gurgaon police, a statement by a northeast helpline group said Thursday. According to the Northeast Support Centre and Helpline, the parents of the girl lodged a case of human trafficking in Imphal, Manipur, four days back. Following leads of the case here, the Gurgaon police rescued the girl Wednesday when she was about to be sold off by the trafficker to another man.

Madhu Chandra, spokesperson of the Northeast Support Centre, said: “An FIR was registered in Manipur under at least six sections, including rape and abduction. While the accused has denied the charges, the victim has confessed that she was abused sexually and raped repeatedly.” “She was rescued while the accused was selling her off in ‘marriage’ to another man for Rs.50,000. At the moment an NGO, Shakti Vahini, has given her shelter until her parents reach here. She is also undergoing medical tests,” he added.

The Manipur state government is also planning to send a team of police to Gurgaon to receive the girl.

Chandra said: “The issue of human trafficking is a huge challenge for the northeast community. Due to socio-political unrest in the region, poor economic condition and lack of educational opportunities, young women and men are easily lured with false promises of jobs and trapped into the trafficking network.”


Manipuri girl saved from being sold


A 14 year old Manipuri girl was rescued by the Gurgaon Police from the basement of a Sector 56 apartment. The accused, a man named Bikku Ranpal, 24, wanted to sell her off in marriage for Rs 50,000, the police said. “Girls from various parts of the country are brought to Haryana illegally to be sold for marriage as the state’s sex ratio is very low,” said Rishipal a member of Shakti Vahini, the NGO which helped the police rescue the girl.

But the accused insists that he had eloped with the girl with the intention of marrying her. A case under various sections of IPC has already been registered against Ranpal at the Sigmai police station of Manipur in January. “We will hand him over to the Manipur police.  They have already been informed about his arrest,” said a senior police officer.


DC gives boost to residents campaign against child labour




GURGAON: With the residents of Gurgaon intensifying their protest against child labour and trafficking, the administration has also decided to extend its support to the cause. To boost the morale of nine residents, who would be cycling a distance of 320km from Gurgaon to Ajmer on Saturday morning, an inauguration programme was held at deputy commissioner Rajender Katarias office at Mini Secretariat on Friday. At the programme, a street play was held to raise awareness on the cause, before the cycle journey was flagged off by Kataria.

The cyclists mission is to raise awareness against child labour and trafficking. Two local NGOs, Shakti Vahini, which runs Childline, and Gurgaon Ki Awaaz are also supporting the cause. The initiative is headed by Chiro Mitra, whistleblower of a child labour case in DLF phase I. Besides this group, another group of 10 cyclists will also cover a distance of 50 km till Manesar to show its solidarity with the cause. All the cyclists are members of the group Pedalyatri.

The cyclists will be supported by 50 volunteers from Shakti Vahini, who will undertake eight street plays on the route to sensitize people on issues like child trafficking and child labour. The volunteers will also conduct a signature campaign against child trafficking and child labour, where the deputy commissioner will sign first in favour of the campaign. Ironically, even as the event was underway at Mini Secretariat, a group of children was seen polishing shoes near the entrance. As photographers started clicking pictures, these children were escorted away from the venue.

Sources said as the area is thronged by hundreds of people everyday, these kids from nearby slums come here to earn money through shoe polishing and begging. An official of Shakti Vahini said, We have intervened in this matter many times, but as they are poor people they do not want to lose their extra income. Acknowledging the situation, Kataria said, The problem is very deep-rooted and despite many orders having been passed, it is still there. The solution to this problem lies in raising awareness among people. We are working on this, and at the same time, the administration will reiterate that no government officials should be, in any way, be a part of child labour.


DC spots child labourer in MCG office, orders probe

Boy begging in Agra

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GURGAON: The latest case of child labour in the city comes from within the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon. A 13-year-old boy had been serving tea to the civic body officials for several months and no one took notice until, on Wednesday, deputy commissioner R K Kataria spotted him and subsequently ordered an inquiry. The police registered an FIR against the childs employer, Ashok Kumar, under various sections of the Juvenile Justice Act and the IPC. The labour department has also slapped a case against the employer under sections of the Child Labour Act. Talking to TOI, Kataria said he had gone to the MCG office  situated outside the General Hospital when the case came to his notice.

As soon as I looked at the kid, I realized that he is underage. The child was hesitant in disclosing his age and his native place at first. But after I made him sit with me and talked to him, he disclosed his age and said he belongs to Bihar, Kataria added.

Kataria summoned the district child welfare officer and Childline (children helpline) to rescue the child. The child was taken to the nearest police station after a medical test. The police registered an FIR against the accused under Sections 23 (punishment for cruelty to juvenile or child) and 26 (exploitation of juvenile or child employee) of the Juvenile Justice Act and Section 374 (unlawful compulsory labour) of the IPC.

Rishi Kant, spokesperson of NGO Shakti Vahini, which runs Childline in Gurgaon, said, The child has been working at the tea stall owned by Ashok since August last year. The childs parents live in Sirhar district of Bihar. They have been getting Rs 2,000 per month from Ashok in lieu of the childs work. As the childs parents have been contacted, he will be handed over to them, said an officer.

Kataria added: A district level workshop for sensitization of all stakeholders is being planned. Resource persons from NCPRC and NHRC will be part of the workshop. It is pertinent to mention that the DC is the head of district child welfare committee, besides chairing the recently constituted district monitoring committee for child labour and abuse. In past few weeks a number of child labour cases have been reported in the Millennium City.

If officials in the district child welfare department are to be believed, about 20% of domestic helps working in posh localities are below the age of 14 years. But voluntary organizations working in the field of rescuing child workers in the city claimed that about 50% of the total population of people working as domestic helps would be children. Unfortunately, authorities don’t have enough manpower to take action against those who employ underage worker.