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