BHUBANESWAR: ‘Swaraksha’ is on the roll. The unique caravan, which has been out on a mission to awaken communities to the horrors of human trafficking in three States, has received huge response in Odisha where it has covered 18 out of 30 districts.
A joint project of the US Consulate General, Hyderabad and Prajwala, the anti-trafficking organisation based in Hyderabad, the caravan has been able to pull in local communities since it started the campaign in Odisha from March 19. Not only have the communities participated braving the heat wave, victims of trafficking and their families have chosen the occasion to voice their stories which, so far, were not reported.
There were instances where activists of Prawjala came across girl victims, as young as 12 years, who stood up to tell their tales. In each district, processions were taken out with district level officials leading the way. Later, documentaries on trafficking were screened and debates held during which survivors shared their stories to connect with the people as part of the campaign. Half the caravan crew comprise survivors from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The campaign aims to encourage communities to recognise the problem and act against it. “This initiative of preventive awareness is a new beginning and shackles of the past have been broken,” said Public Affairs Officer of US Consulate General, Hyderabad Gabriel Hons-Oliver who took part in one such event at Bari in Jajpur two days ago.
So far, during the campaign, 89 unreported trafficking cases came to fore in the three States. In Odisha alone, 19 cases were reported. Each time unreported cases of trafficking were brought to fore, the administration swung into action to follow it up with investigation.
General secretary of Prajwala Sunitha Krishnan said the support from Odisha Government has been very strong. “On April 7, I tagged the Chief Minister’s Office in my tweet about a missing girl whose mother fears she has been trafficked. The CMO immediately sought the details for action,” said Krishnan who was recently conferred Padma Shri for her pioneering work against human trafficking.
With Magistrates, Collectors and SPs and officers of District Legal Services Authorities attending the meeting, she said, confidence of the communities has been bolstered and they are opening up. Sunitha said half of the human trafficking in Odisha is for labour while sex trafficking and forced marriage comprise the rest. Large number of women are taken to Jhansi, UP, Haryana and Rajasthan where they are forcefully married off.
A new trend of young boys being trafficked has come to fore too. “The boys are surgically castrated and passed on as transgenders to Mumbai and Pune where they are engaged in begging, drug peddling and dancing,” she said. ‘Swaraksha’ will complete its Odisha coverage on May 22 and converge at Rabindra Mandap here.