Published in The Hindu by Devesh Pandey
It has been luring poverty-stricken youths from the neighbouring nation Nepal promising better life.
A company, tantalisingly named WinWin, has for some time been luring poverty-stricken youths out of their homes in the remote hills of Nepal to India in the hope of acquiring a better life. But now, WinWin — that describes itself as a skill development company from Varanasi, the high-profile constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi — is under the scanner for suspected links with a well-organised international human trafficking racket.
“We have received several reports on the activities of the company. Investigations have been launched,” Inspector-General of Police (Varanasi Zone) Amrendra K. Sengar told The Hindu.
In the past few months alone, an estimated 60,000 Nepalese nationals, mostly young women, are believed to have crossed over to India hoping to join the company.
In the early hours of September 22, as The Hindu team waits at the Belahiya border check point, it is witness to Nepalese police personnel intercepting a WinWin “trafficking” agent attempting to smuggle out two girls from northern Nepal.
“You are a liar! This is the fourth time you have been caught red-handed. Why have you been doing this again and again, putting lives of innocent girls at risk?” shouts an infuriated policeman at the agent. Later, the policeman tells us: “The emerging trend is that traffickers have started targeting vulnerable sections in the areas not affected in the April earthquake, as most agencies have been focussing on pockets that witnessed massive devastation.”
Wary of disclosing his identity, the young suspect insists it is his maiden trip to Varanasi with the girls to enrol them in a WinWin skill development programme. The company is suspected to be run by two Nepali nationals.
“I recently learnt about the firm from my friends in my village Phalaban in Salyan [in northern Nepal]. Lots of people are going there for training … they offer 20-35 per cent returns. I have invested Rs.1.5 lakh and hope to get the first instalment this month,” claims the agent.
“The victims pay Rs.1.5 to 2 lakh per head to the company and then are made to operate as agents for bringing in more candidates from the remote hills of Nepal, on the promise of huge returns. We cannot stop the girls who are majors and carry valid citizenship papers,” says another policeman.
At Belahiya, a volunteer with Maiti Nepal, a non-governmental organisation, tells us that on an average, 600 girls cross into India every day: “Everyone wants to join this company in Varanasi. They have with them only a card of the firm carrying its name, WinWin, no other details. We don’t know where exactly these girls are being taken,” he says.
Trafficking of Nepalese nationals across the border is not a new phenomenon, but after an earthquake devastated Nepal in April this year, security personnel say there has been a spike in the outflow of young women looking for jobs abroad: this became tellingly evident after the case of the Saudi diplomats in Delhi recently.
Thanks to the friendship agreement between India and Nepal, there is free movement of people from both sides, making the task of the police that much harder. Only those accompanied by suspicious persons, and not having genuine papers, get intercepted, counselled and sent back.
For the moment, it is the NGOs that appear the most concerned: Rishi Kant of NGO Shakti Vahini stresses, “If the information on this company is correct, it needs to be investigated by senior police officers in Uttar Pradesh, in coordination with the State Principal Secretary (Home) and the External Affairs Ministry. The Nepali government also needs to be alerted.”