“They slapped me every day, shaved my head forcibly”

Shakti Vahini Jharkhand

By Anumeha Yadav in The Hindu

New Delhi: Three weeks after she reached the Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) at Kashmere Gate from Chandigarh after being dismissed without wages by the household where she had worked, 12-year old Ritika Mundu (name changed) waited at the Jharkhand Bhawan with her father, police personnel, and activists who had reached Delhi from Jharkhand. Dressed in a red and green lace frock, with her head tonsured, the slightly-built tribal girl spoke softly taking several breaks as she narrated her journey from a village in Jharkhand to Delhi and then Chandigarh, where she worked as a domestic help. “The aunty lived with her husband and grandson. I woke up at 4 and first cleaned two toilets, and then did the dishes. She would give me roti and dal to eat in the morning and then nothing till night,” said Ritika. “She would slap me almost every day, even when I tried to do the work well.

Then one day she wanted to cut my hair saying there were lice in my hair. I told her this was not true. I tried to stop her but she forced me one day and shaved my head,” narrated the young girl. The 12-year-old tribal girl narrated that she had completed Class VI last year in her village school in Khunti district’s Murhu block before dropping out of school. Her father worked as a farm labourer. She said she had been brought to Delhi by a woman Phaguni Mundu from her village in Khunti in April. Ritika said she, her 10-year old-cousin Uday Mundu, and another boy boarded a bus from the village with Phaguni Mundu on April 5 without informing their families.

Phaguni took her to Chandigarh to work as domestic worker and she was not allowed to contact her family. Her employers had thrown her out of their house on May 4 after which she caught a bus to Delhi. “Aunty got very angry one evening and asked me to leave the house. It was 5 pm. I still had Rs. 100 from when I had first come to her house. I walked a long time searching for the bus stand. Then I got on to a bus to Delhi which reached here next morning,” she recounted, showing tickets of Haryana Roadways buses she had preserved carefully.

She had been spotted crying by vendors near ISBT who had alerted the Kashmere Gate police post, who in turn had informed the NGO Shakti Vahini. “Such instances of trafficking of minors by placement agencies, their mistreatment keep recurring yet neither Central nor State governments have issued guidelines for rehabilitating the children, or to ensure they return to schools to get good quality education,” said Rishikant of NGO Shakti Vahini. “PM Narendra Modi made several promises for tribal welfare while visiting Jharkhand before elections. We wait to see what action his government takes now,” he said.

The NGO has rescued over 70 children working as domestic workers from Jharkhand alone from January till now, he added. “Provisions for rescue for trafficked children are done in a piecemeal fashion. Often there is no clarity on even which department will fund the trip or the costs of bringing the children back when we receive notifications on missing children found in another city,” said an Anti-Human Trafficking Unit Inspector that had accompanied the team requesting anonymity.

In 2013, Ranchi-based NGO Birsa had recorded that there were 14 children missing from villages in Murhu block alone – where Ritika’s village lies – in Khunti. In March 2013, Miti Purti (name changed) from the same district as Ritika returned from Delhi with a debilitating skin infection, earning Rs. 27,000 after working seven years in Delhi. Mani Dondray, 15, worked in Delhi for seven months but had to return after she contracted TB and became severely underweight.

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