Our very own Malala: trafficked at 12, crusader and global Girl Hero at 18

trafficking story

PUBLISHED IN THE TELEGRAPH03metlady_184626

Anoyara Khatun was all of 13 when she led an army of children across a canal at midnight, caught a trafficker and saved a family on the verge of losing their teenage daughter to a trafficking ploy in the name of marriage.

She has since managed to save at least 50 minor girls from child marriage.

n A few months after her first act of courage, Anoyara managed to pin down a trafficking tout along with a battalion of children and taught him a lesson he would find hard to forget.

Till date, she has foiled nearly 85 trafficking attempts, helped rescue and reunite more than 200 children with their families and got 200 dropouts back into school.

n The following year, when former education minister Kanti Biswas was on his way back from a village in Sandeshkhali in the Sunderbans, Anoyara and her army of kids trooped in, blocked his path and forced him to accede to their demand to build more schools in the village.

03metanwara15_184914Today, Sandeshkhali has 84 schools.

The first thing that strikes you about Anoyara, 18, is that her eyes speak. They are large, luminous and transfix you at once.

She is seated on a stool outside the Dhagagia Social Welfare Society’s office in Sandeshkhali, her face radiant in the afternoon sun as she contemplates the world around her.

“Don’t you think this place is beautiful?” she asks, her eyes scanning the expanse of green on one side and the water bodies on the other.

She is clearly in love with the hinterland to which she belongs and has taken upon herself to protect.

Her world wasn’t always so beautiful. It couldn’t have been after being trafficked at 12.

But this powerhouse of a girl from Chhoto Askara, a tiny village that is part of Bengal’s most trafficking-prone belt, isn’t the type to dwell in the past. Anoyara has not only left her private hell behind but also rebuilt her life as an activist leading an army of children who battle trafficking and child marriage in quirky little ways.

Her courage and commitment to protecting the girl child has been widely recognised, the biggest honour coming from the foundation led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

03metleadAnoyara is one of the “Girl Heroes” from across the world that the Malala Fund is currently celebrating for 30 days — from October 11 to November 9 — as a beacon of “exemplary courage and leadership”.

The Malala Fund, which focuses on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education, has tagged Anoyara as “#StrongerThan Social Ills like Child Trafficking and Early Marriage” and anointed her a “true Girl Hero”.

But long before Anoyara emerged as a force against exploitation, she had to grapple with a dark and traumatic phase in her life.

Born in 1996 as the youngest among four siblings — three sisters and a brother — Anoyara lost her father when she was five. Her mother began working as a cook in a local school to feed the family but life was hard.

“I was going to school but had to drop out when I was in Class VI,” recalls Anoyara, who doesn’t like to revisit her past. “I don’t like to talk about what I have left behind. I like to talk about how I am moving forward in life,” she says with a conviction nobody can defy.

Anoyara was barely 12 when she was trafficked to Delhi and forced into domestic labour, a hellhole she managed to run away from after a year. The transition from victim to victor was quick, a trait that has since defined her work as an activist.

Anoyara reels off a list of activities she and her children’s groups in the area have been involved in to spread awareness among villagers about child marriage and trafficking.

We also learn that she is now the leader of as many as 80 children’s groups across 40 villages in Sandeshkhali.

These groups are all affiliated to Save the Children and the Dhagagia Social Welfare Society-run multi-activity centre, which Anoyara had joined when she was 13.

“There were only 10 groups when I joined and then I got more girls like me to join in. Now there are more than 1,600 children and I keep track of all of them!” she smiles, holding up the Nokia C1 phone that she uses to keep in touch with her groups.

“I got this (the phone) three years ago as a prize in Ranchi. It helps me in my work because I can connect with people and children’s groups can call me any time.”

For a fleeting moment, the child in the 18-year-old surfaces. “We don’t have a television at home but I can listen to songs on this phone. Nachiketa and Shreya Ghoshal are my favourites,” Anoyara says, breaking into a smile.

She quickly goes back to describing how her groups operate around Sandeshkhali I and II and Minakhan, quizzing families on the whereabouts of children they have married off or sent out with strangers to work. “You know, my sisters were all married off at 13 or 14. None of us knew anything about child marriage at the time. For us, it was a custom,” she recounts.

Her sharp eyes soften as the conversation delves deeper into the subject. “When you endure a lot of pain, trouble and misery, you take it as a challenge to overcome that. Adversity was my driving force. I realised that if I didn’t bounce back from my ordeal, many more girls from Sandeshkhali would go missing. It became a mission and a challenge to myself to put a stop to exploitation of children and keep them from falling into the dangerous trap of trafficking or child marriage.”

But turning pain into power was far from easy for Anoyara, who had just stepped into her teens when her mission began.

“Before reaching out to people in the villages, I had to convince my own family to allow me to step out of the house. I reminded them of the pain they had gone through when I was away and how important it was to get other families to realise the dangers too,” she says.

Breaking the ice with villagers indifferent to “worldly advice” from a bunch of “precocious children” was the next challenge. “They would say, ‘What do you kids know? Who are you to tell us?’ It was difficult to get the elders to pay attention to us but we never gave up. We would keep visiting them endlessly till they were convinced and clear about what we as children were trying to tell them.”

Anoyara’s courage came to the fore when she saved a girl from the clutches of touts and captured the men with help of a group of children her age. “In our village, people go to sleep by eight and children aren’t allowed outside. I managed to get out of the house, take some friends along, chased the traffickers across the village, jumped canals and caught them. It was a huge risk but it changed the way elders looked at us.”

She went on to become a role model in her village and the adjoining areas, employing out-of-the-box strategies for her children’s army to stalk, spot, seize and hand over traffickers to the authorities.

“Our first rule is to follow any outsider we see in the village and pass the message to each other at the multi-activity centre. If we find them going into a house, two or three of us will playfully saunter in, hang around, eavesdrop on the conversation and then come back and report to the group,” she reveals.

“If we realise that the person has wrong intentions and could be a potential trafficker, we immediately meet the child in question and explain why they should not go away with the stranger. Then we go and meet the family as a group to help them understand too. And if we find them running away with a child, we will drag them to the centre of the village and tie them up.”

While some traffickers mend their ways and even join the child protection committees in the villages, others don’t dare enter Anoyara’s territory again.

She takes you to a multi-activity centre to meet one of the children’s groups with a spring in her step, smiling at the children who squeal: “Didi! Didi!”

“How are you? Have you eaten? Why are you looking glum? Smile!” Anoyara tells the children, later joining them in a game of Chinese Whispers.

Keya Parvin, a 15-year-old member of one of the children’s groups, has something to tell us. “Do you know that once we children raided a wedding and stopped a family from marrying off a child? We have learnt so much from Didi. All of us want to be like her.”

The advantages of being a child activist are many, according to Anoyara. “Children will always be the first ones to know. And a child will always listen to someone her age and treat her like a friend. An adult would most likely try to instruct,” she says.

“Everyone from Maulvis and Brahmins to village heads and the police listen to us now. But that doesn’t mean we are rebels. We respect elders.”

Anoyara had been nominated for The International Children’s Peace Prize in 2012, an award that went to Malala the next year. Last June, she travelled to Brussels to represent Save The Children in a Global Partnership for Education conference.

Aamar passport hobey, bideshey jabo…bhabtei parini (I couldn’t have imagined that I would have a passport and go abroad). I loved the glass buildings and ate a lot of chocolates. I also met Malala’s father,” recalls Anoyara, who idolises Malala.

“I want to be like her someday. I was so happy the day she won the Nobel. I keep news clippings of her whenever I find one.”

While Anoyara aspires to be like Malala, nothing gives her more satisfaction than bringing a missing girl back home or stopping a child marriage.

She has made it a ritual to organise a big children’s party whenever a trafficked child returns to Sandeshkhali. “We collect money and organise a feast of dal, bhaja and egg curry at the multi-activity centre. We sing, dance and play from morning till evening. And then, like a friend, we get the rescued child to talk to us, share her misery and join our group.”

For Anoyara, the joy comes from providing the love and protection that she had once yearned for. “What I didn’t get I try to give to others,” she says.

Alongside her busy schedule, Anoyara is studying for her graduation in a local college. She is the first from her village to go this far.

An average day in her life means waking up at 6am, reading namaz and tutoring 25 children before leaving for college. Back home by 4pm, she goes around her village checking on the children.

Like most teenage girls, Anoyara loves her trinkets, kajal and the colour pink. The one thing that irks her is the idea of keeping pets. “I love cats and dogs but I don’t like the idea of caging anyone, be it animals or humans. They should all be set free.”

Her refuge from the nightmare of being caged is a little diary full of songs and poems. They are all about human trafficking and tell you a bit about her suffering as a child. “Mon kharap holei aami likhi (I write when I am sad),” she says.

Her ambition is to learn English, computers and cycling. “I think these will make me braver,” she says, not bothering to elaborate.

Once again her eyes do the talking.

What message do you have for Anoyara Khatun? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com

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Trafficking Kingpin Pannalal Arrest Brings Focus to Illegal Placement Agencies Indulging in Human Trafficking

SUNITASHAKTI VAHINI PRESS RELEASE/ 24 October 2014

The hide and seek of Panna Lal and his wife came to an end on 19th October, 2014 with their arrest by Crime Branch Delhi and Jharkhand Anti-human Trafficking Unit under various charges from Shakurpur area of Delhi. 31 years old Panna Lal and his 37 year old wife Sunita were most wanted in various FIRs in Jharkhand. Human Trafficking kingpin, Panna Lal and his wife have been trafficking minor and young tribal girls from the remote areas of Jharkhand.

Search For Pannalal and His Wife

On 13th October, Panna Lala’s Sister in law Gayatri was arrested for illegally bringing minor girls from Jharkhand and then selling them off in domestic Slavery. Gayatri was also a named accused in a FIR in Jharkhand. Fearlessly, she was running a Gayatri placement agency in M Block, Shakurpur, Delhi and operating from there.

On 13th October, 2014 a raid was conducted by Jharkhand AHTU team and Delhi Crime Branch along with Shakti Vahini (for search of trafficked victims) in which Gayatri was arrested. She was produced in Rohini court same day and was later taken to Jharkhand.

A search for Panna Lal and Sunita was also conducted at different hideout of Panna Lal in Shakur Pur but the couple was not found. Meanwhile a strong informer network was developed by Jharkhand AHTU in Shakurpur to get the details of Panna Lal and his wife.

Arrest of Pannalal and His Wife

Jharkhand AHTU S.I Aradhana Singh kept a watch at the house of Panna Lal in Shakurpur through informers. Getting a tip off from the informer about the whereabouts of Panna Lal and Sunita, Sub Inspector Aradhana Singh immediately Co-ordinated with Delhi Crime Branch and a raid was conducted early morning at Panna Lal’s residence in Shakur Pur and both were arrested on 19th October, 2014.

Jharkhand AHTU team reached Delhi to take the custody of Panna Lal and Sunita. With no remorse on their faces, the Couple was produced before Duty Magistrate, Rohini Court at around 2:30 P.M and were sent to Tihar Jail. Jharkhand AHTU will be given the custody of the couple in their next production before the court.

IMG_5222Modus Operendi of Panna Lal and Sunita

Panna Lal and Sunita were running more than 200 illegal placement agencies with different names in Delhi whereby they were bringing minor girls from Jharkhand and were selling them as domestic slaves with an advance payment of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000/- per girl, in the affluent house of Delhi.

Panna Lal and wife Sunita used to target the minor girls and the most vulnerable families of remote and tribal areas of Jharkhand. Once a girl is being targeted, she is lured with false promises of marriage, good job, education or good life. Families were also given assurance that the girl will be given a good life and her salary will be sent to them every month. After the girl is being taken to Delhi, she is confined and placed into houses by these placement agencies of Panna Lal, to work from early morning till late nights without any break or holiday. The salary of the girl is also taken by Panna Lal. Every girl is placed in a house for 11 months and was then after 11 months she is further placed in other house. Victims are not allowed to go back to their home or to meet their relatives.

The trafficking victims were exploited not only by these persons but also by their employers. Those who are fortunate enough get rescued by Police or anti-Trafficking organisation while other stay confined as slaves.

Delhi: A hub of illegally running placement agencies

Delhi has rapidly become a hub for placement agencies in past few years. Areas like Tughlakabad, Ranibagh, Punjabi Bagh, Shakurpur, Shakarpur etc emerged out as centres for these placement agencies. There more than 10,000 placement agencies illegally running in Delhi and more than 4000 of these agencies are situated at Shakurpur only under the jurisdiction of Subhash Place police station. While a very small number of these agencies are registered under Labour Department but they have not comply with the rules yet. There is no law to regulate these agencies so far due to which these agencies are fearlessly trafficking minors from States of Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal and Orissa. Even if an agency is raided and closed down, the agents get away easily and reopen a new agency with different name and address and the never ending cycle of exploitation of minor girls continues.

Jharkhand C.I.D, last year handed over a list of 240 agents and agencies running illegally in Delhi and involved in trafficking minor girls from Jharkhand, a copy of which was also given to Shakti Vahini. The names of Panna Lal and Sunita were also exposed in the list. The Jharkhand police was looking out for these two traffickers since a long time and with the arrest of Panna Lal and Sunita, Jharkhand police hoping that many other names may come out.

PLACEMENTRole of placement agencies in Child Trafficking

Placement agencies are playing a major role in trafficking minor girls as well as children for the purpose of labour, sex slavery and forced marriages. The traffickers have changed their modus operandi with the changes in law and society.

In most of the cases the trafficker is known to the victim who convinces the victim and her/his family and further sell them over to placement agent. The placement agencies generally recruit a person to target the girls and then pick them up (By luring or sometimes by kidnapping) and bring them to main cities of the state. From the main cities another person come in charge and further take the victims to railway station from where they are handed over to another person and brought to Delhi. After reaching Delhi, the victims are further handed over to another person and brought to Placement agencies.

Some victims are then placed in various houses as domestic help with a payment of Rs 20,000/- to Rs 30,000/- , while others are sold off into forced marriages or Prostitution. The girls who are placed in houses with a monthly salary of Rs 1000 or Rs 3000 never get their wages. A girl is placed in one house for 11 months and every month the placement agencies take their salary which never reaches the victims or their families. Once a victim completes her 11 months in house, she is further placed into another house and the exploitation continues.

For objecting the work given by placement agencies, the victims are tortured, thrashed and beaten up badly, many times these victim girls report sexual violence and assault by the placement agents and even by their employers. The girls are kept confined in the placement agencies till the time they are sold further.

These placement agencies keep on changing their addresses, name and contact details to escape from law. Taking benefits of various loop holes in law and government machineries the placement agencies operate freely and actively.

What can be done?

A time when, the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi is focussing on labour reforms and giving dignity to labour, the country on the other hand fails to recognise one of the main work force i.e. Domestic Labour. Domestic Labour or Domestic Worker constitutes a huge work force in India which usually remained hidden in closed doors of our houses.

Need to regulate the placement agencies

There is an urgent need to regulate the placement agencies operating in Delhi. A bill to regulate the placement Agencies and to recognise domestic worker as a work force, named “The Delhi Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Bill 2012, was presented before the government. But, the bill is not passed yet.

Chhattisgarh in this context has taken a vital step by becoming the first state to launch the Private Agencies (Regulation) Act this year.

Recently, on 25th September, 2014, Labour Department, Governemnt of National Capital Territory of Delhi in compliance with the order of Delhi high court in writ Petition (Crl.) 82/2009 , passed an executive order whreby the placement agencies are directed to get themselves registered under “Delhi Shops & Establishment Act, 1954” or “Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 before 25th October, 2014.

Silent Features of the Order:

A domestic worker is defined as the person who is of the age 18 years or more who performs domestic work only sporadically and is employed through a contractor.

Placement agencies shall provide the details of their details, Number of persons/ domestic workers, who are employed through them with their names, age and addresses, Details or salaries fixed, addresses of employers, period of employment, nature of work, details of commissions received from the employers.

The applicant will be given a license to run his/her placement agency after 15 days of issuance of the registration certificate by Labour department.

Every Domestic Worker will issued an attested pass book by his/her placement agency indicating name, age, address, employer’s name, period of employment, payment of wages etc.
Agreement for engagement of domestic workers by the employer through placement agency shall be in writing.

If placement agencies do not comply with the provision of the order, a penalty will be imposed or the registration/license will be cancelled to run the agency in Delhi-NCR

The Delhi Commission for Women and Child Welfare committee are given special powers and duties in virtue of the direction of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi.

Taking a strong stand against the trafficking of minors in Delhi for domestic workers and their exploitation, the order has also given power to Delhi Commission for Women and Child Welfare Committee to examine the complaints related to withholding wages not less than minimum wages, harassment or abuse by placement agencies and employers, non-compliance of the agreed terms, abusive working conditions, long working hours, lack of basic facilities etc.

State Plan of action to Combat Human Trafficking.

States have to come up with a state plan of action for the Rehabilitation of trafficking victims and preventing trafficking of children and Women. The State plan of action will focus on ensuring protection, Rehabilitation, and rescue of trafficking Victim, and providing Training, education and awareness at mass level about human Trafficking.

Providing training and skills to Domestic helps

The domestic helps working in our houses shall be treated with dignity and shall be given training for skill development. The harassment and exploitation of domestic helps can come to an end if they are provided with education and skill development training.

slavery freeGive Dignity to your Domestic help.

It is very much needed that each and every person shall come forward and give respect and dignity to the domestic help. Make sure that you are not employing anyone who is below the age of 18 years. Verify the identity of your Domestic help’s. Check the registration of the placement agency with local police. Pay the salary according to the minimum wages prescribed by the government, directly to him/her in bank accounts.

Most of the domestic worker comes from the back breaking poverty background with a hope of assisting their family in financial condition. But Irony is that the amount that we pay to placement agency as advance or as salary of our domestic help never reaches them. Hence in cases a girl is rescued and restored back to her family, have the high chances of getting trapped by the traffickers again.

RWAs have to come forward

Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) are playing a vital role in cities like Delhi to look into the general affairs of the locality. RWAs have to take up the command to see that no child or a woman is forced to work in its locality. RWAs shall time to time sensitize residents about the Domestic helps. They shall take the responsibility of their locality and make it a slavery free locality.

Every day, Thousands of innocent children and women are being at a risk of trafficked and forced to work as slaves in and around our houses. The number of missing children and girls is increasing day by day.

We at Shakti Vahini have been actively working in bringing the victims close to the justice.

Shakti Vahini Jharkhand
PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

Police in Delhi and Jharkhand yet to register FIR

In the most recent of recurring cases of minors trafficked from rural areas to work as domestic workers in the city, a 14-year old Adivasi girl from Jharkhand was rescued from Kashmiri Gate on May 5 after she left her employer’s house in Chandigarh. Despite a Supreme Court order last January followed by a Home Ministry directive in July 2013 that complaints of all missing children be immediately registered as FIRs, Jharkhand police or Delhi police are yet to do this.

The girl Ritika Mundu (name changed) told the CWC that she had been brought to Delhi by a woman Phaguni Mundu from her village in Khunti in Jharkhand last month. She had been taken to Chandigarh to work as domestic worker where she was beaten regularly and not allowed to contact her family. She narrated that her employers had thrown her out of their house on May 4 after which she caught a bus to Delhi. She was spotted crying and in distress by vendors near ISBT who then alerted the Kashmiri Gate police chowki, who in turn informed the NGO Shakti Vahini.

Ritika Mundu, who has been sent to a children’s shelter home, was carrying an Aadhaar card which revealed her father Kunwar Mundu’s name and her address in Hetgaon village in Khunti’s Murhu block. Her father works as a farm labourer.

Usually, the Child Welfare Committee orders registering of an FIR but they did not specify this time. “The child’s father has not yet made a formal complaint,” said a senior police official in Delhi.

“A FIR should have been registered automatically to begin an investigation into who brought her here and if any placement agency was involved. Since the family is very poor, we have offered to assist them reach their child here,” said Rishikant of NGO Shakti Vahini. He added the NGO had rescued over 70 children from Jharkhand working as domestic workers so far this year.

In Murhu block in Jharkhand, the girl’s father Kunwar Mundu told Jharkhand-based NGO Diya Sewa Sansathan that Ritika, and two other boys including Ritika’s 10-year old cousin Uday Mundu, boarded a bus from the village with Phaguni Mundu on April 5 without informing their families.

“She was in my class but stopped coming regularly to school two years back to help her father. She is a simple child but very articulate. If she had continued she would be in class VIII now,” said Devi Kumari who teaches at the government middle school in Hetgaon. The village mukhiya Devnath Mundu said the village had witnessed similar cases last year too. “Two girls who are 12 and 13 years old are missing since last year, their families found no trace of them. We reported to the thana too but there was no information. Then, last month these three children boarded a bus to Ranchi and maybe a train from there. At least Ritika was found, there is no word on the other two boys who are 10 and 12 years old,” the mukhiya Devnath Mundu told The Hindu on the phone from Jharkhand.

Studies estimate the number of children trafficked from Jharkhand is between 30,000 to 40,000. But the number of FIRs of missing children is less than 500 – a huge gap,” said Baidnath Kumar who works with Diya Sewa Sansathan in Jharkhand.

Punish employers for ill-treating domestic helps: MHA to police

31CHILD7_1194334f

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Ill-treating a domestic help will amount to trafficking, the home ministry’s latest directions to the police say. If the employer doesn’t give food or not allow the help to venture outside home, the action will be treat on a par with trafficking even if the employee is an adult.

“In a fresh circular, the ministry of home affairs has issued standard operating procedures to be followed by various agencies, including police, citing a Supreme Court order. So, if a person employs a child then he may not only face prosecution for provisions against child labour but also be punished for ill-treating the kid. Ill-treatment also includes denying minimum wages. This will tighten the strings on placement agencies, who gobble up at least half of the salary paid to domestic helps,” said Rishi Kant, executive director of Shakti Vahini, an NGO.

According to MHA’s guidelines, it is police’s duty to rescue a trafficked child and book the employer for not paying minimum wages, among other offences. The ministry has also asked the police to treat trafficking as an organised crime.

In 2012, 3,734 children employed as labourers were rescued from Delhi of which 2,357 were of below 14 years of age. “It is a growing problem and the police must try to curb trafficking by targeting the economics of crime syndicates. For instance, police must initiate the process of cancelling the licence of factory from where the child is rescued. Such steps can help prevent trafficking,” Rishi Kant added.

The police have also been asked to keep the rescued child away from the employers.

India: Country Assessment Highlights Status of Victim Assistance and Criminal Justice Initiatives on anti human trafficking

UNODC SOUTH ASIA

The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons promotes the protection and support of victims of trafficking. Even though many countries have taken positive steps to create a favorable environment and put in place mechanisms to adequately assist and protect victims of trafficking, much more needs to be done.  Apart from prosecuting traffickers, it is equally important to recognize the need for protecting trafficked survivors. Protecting the identity and rights of survivors does not only help convict traffickers but also guards against re-trafficking. To ensure a victim-centred and human rights approach to the crime of trafficking in persons, there is a need to improve mechanisms for the identification of victims and establishment of adequate referral procedures for institutions providing support, assistance and reintegration.

To this end, UNODC commissioned a country assessment on the “status of victim service providers and criminal justice actors in India”. This report is a result of ten months of intensive consultations with nodal officers working on anti human trafficking, key ministries and NGOs; interactions with select Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) and government and NGO-run shelter homes. This assessment also captures a brief situational analysis (based primarily on anecdotal and media reports) of 13 forms of human trafficking and highlights broad trends. The report elaborates responses and initiatives taken by 21 State Governments in India to counter trafficking; it lays down constitutional and legal provisions including the latest Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, landmark judgements, and government sponsored protection schemes. Advisories issued by the Government and data from the National Crimes Record Bureau of India on missing persons are also presented. In addition, the report also identifies key areas that require attention and concerted action to strengthen services for trafficking survivors.

UNODC hopes that this assessment will be of practical use for officials, service providers and stakeholders to further design and develop a comprehensive response for victim assistance and protection services in the area of human trafficking in the country.

Click here to read “Current Status of Victim Service Providers and Criminal Justice Actors in India on anti human trafficking”

The assessment was conducted under the UNODC project titled, ‘Promoting the implementation of the Trafficking Protocol and the Smuggling Protocol, both supplementing the UNTOC’ with the financial support of the European Union.

 Human_Trafficking-Assesment Report India 2013

Traffickers rob Sunderbans kids of childhood

Sumati Yengkhom in TIMES OF INDIA

Patharpratima (South 24 Parganas): In July 2009, 10-year-old Farzara (all names changed) disappeared from Patharpratima’s Kishori Nagar. Three years have passed since then, but the girl remains untraced till now. Her parents fear the girl has been sold off to some brothel by traffickers.

“I fear that my daughter must have been thrown into flesh trade by now. It pains me when I think of the trauma she must be going through. Whatever condition she may be in, we want her back home,” the girl’s father lamented.Few kilometres away in Bhagatpur, Supratim Maji has been regretting sending her 15-year-old daughter off to Delhi for work. Anjali had left home in April 2007. The prospect of working as a domestic help, which would ensure the girl proper food and a few hundred rupees, was too lucrative. The family agreed when a ‘placement agency’ proposed that he girl be sent with them.

“We are too poor to feed our children. We thought by sending her off she would at least get food to eat,” regretted Maji.

Pockets in South 24-Parganas, specially Sandeshkhali and Patharpratima, have emerged as a hot spot for traffickers over the years. Police officers and NGOs working on the issue are concerned about the vulnerability of children from these regions. “There is an spurt in the number of minors missing from the pockets of the Sunderbans after Aila wrecked havoc in the island,” admitted a senior police officer.

The recorded number of minors missing from Patharpratima in 2011 alone was 39 while this year, the number stands at 19 till date. NGOs, however, said that the actual number could be much higher.

“Many cases go unreported. Sometimes, parents keep mum as long as they get money. Therefore, the actual number of missing children could be much higher. Moreover during raid and rescue we come across cases of minors who were not reported missing in the respective police stations ,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based NGO.

In majority of the cases, parents themselves send their children with these ‘agencies’. They inform the police only when they fail to communicate with their children. However, police have been successful is rescuing some such children. “I fell into the trap of a neighbour who took me away on the pretext of giving me a job. I smelt a rat only when he confined me in a house in some nearby town. I shiver at the very thought of those tormenting days,” said a 18 year-old who was rescued by the police about six months ago.

As the girl broke down narrating her past ordeal in her Dholahat hut, DSP Papiya Sultana of the anti-trafficking unit of the district assured the girl of support. Egged on by the police, the girl completed Class XII this year. Police now plans to enroll her in computer training programme. The girl is now looking ahead to live a new life.

“I only know what I went through during my seven year stay in a Pune brothel. But I bore everything silently as there was no escape,” recounted Reshma. She now in her twenties however is back home after a police rescued her. On her tips police also nabbed the woman who ran the brothel and rescued six more girls hailing from different parts of south 24 Parganas.

Abject poverty at root of trafficking

Abject poverty at root of trafficking

HINDUSTAN TIMES

The narrow dusty road that leads to Renuka’s hut in Gumla — 100 kilometers away from Ranchi — is lined with fields on either side. But the cracked parched land is a far cry from the green fields that you have seen on TV or Bollywood movies. They do not make you smile, they leave you worried.It is not surprising then that Renuka agreed to send her 13-year-old daughter, Meena, to Delhi to work as a domestic maid.

“Paisa nahi hai isliye kuch kamane bheja tha (We have no money that is why we sent her to earn something),” she says simply when asked why she sent her daughter away.

A 100 feet away one can see a group of men lounging about under the shade of a ‘pipal’ tree with tumblers in their hands.

“They are drinking Hadiya,” explains Renuka, who is returning home from a day’s work in her small field. “That is all they do. It is the tradition here,” the 35-year-old mother of five adds ruefully. The ‘tradition’ she speaks of is drinking a pungent locally brewed rice wine.

Renuka is among the thousands of women who have sent their daughters to big cities to work as domestic maids in the last decade. She is also among the fortunate few who have got their daughters back.

“I had no other option. The trafficker gave me Rs. 5,000 initially and promised to send Rs. 2,000 every month after that. This is a lot of money for us. The rest of my five children can easily live on it. I sent her seven months back but have not spoken to my daughter in five months. The money has also dried up,” said Pushpa Devi, another woman in the village who had sent her daughter to work in Delhi.

Renuka’s daughter, Meena, came back to Dumardi only a couple of months ago. The 13-year-old refuses to say much about her three-month-long stay in Delhi, where she worked as maid. But child welfare committee (CWC) members tell us that she was beaten up by a placement agency owner when she said she wanted to go back home. She, along with three other girls, was rescued from a placement agency in Delhi’s Prasad Nagar.

“She was locked in a room and beaten up brutally because she wanted to go back home. Even a mention of Delhi is enough to terrify her,” said Mamta Devi, the CWC worker.

The outer limits of district Gumla start barely a hundred kilometers away from Jharkhand’s capital city Ranchi. It is one of the three districts from where the highest number of girls are trafficked to big cities such Delhi and Jaipur to work as domestic maids each year. With the authorities in Delhi acting tough against traffickers, new routes between Jharkhand and Mumbai, Goa, Jaipur and Ahmedabad are opening for the traffickers.

And it is not hard to imagine why.

Men women and children lie about listlessly in the afternoons — the men usually drunk. There is simply no work to do. “There are no means of irrigation; the fields are useless all year round, except during the three months of monsoon. We go out as unskilled labourers the rest of the year,” Renuka says. She gets paid R100 for eight hours’ work if she manages to find any in and around Ranchi.

According to Tribhuvan Sharma, CWC member, Gumla, around 15 girls have been trafficked from each village in the district. There are 944 villages in Gumla, which puts the number of trafficked children at 14,160. But the numbers revealed to law enforcement agencies by traffickers is around 25,000. The horror stories of minors being tortured and beaten at work in big cities prove no deterrence for mothers like Renuka from sending their minor kids to big cities.They, after all, also know that starving to death is worse.

(Names of children and their parents have been changed to protect identity)