BENGALURU: A 17-year-old minor, who was trafficked from the city, was rescued from Delhi three days ago. Though there is no official data on trafficking because police cases are filed under ‘missing’ and ‘kidnapping’, Bengaluru-based social workers believe that there is a rise in the number of such cases.
They say that children of migrant labourers are particularly vulnerable, and traffickers look for eight to eleven-year-olds because they are most ‘adaptable’. There is an increase in demand for minors in sex trade, says a person who has been working with children of sex workers, adding that younger children command a higher price.
Just like the 17-year-old, a native of Andhra Pradesh, children are lured by offers of jobs in homes and beauty parlours. These minors and young adults are then sold into prostitution or child labour.
An officer, who was part of the team that rescued the 17-year-old, says, “There were many such girls in Delhi who were trafficked from Bengaluru and rescued but they did not want to come back. They chose to stay back”. Bengaluru and Delhi police have joined forces to tackle interstate trafficking. Seemant Kumar Singh, Additional Commissioner of Police, too is looking to form such ties with other states as well.
Parents are often scared of lodging a complaint because goons may be involved. A 38-year-old woman in South Bengaluru has not, even after three years of her daughter going missing. She is afraid of the local rowdy sheeters, who she believes took her daughter.
This Tamil migrant family has four children, one of them differently abled. The daughter, who was 14 then, started meeting a local goon regularly. “He promised her a job and the mother kept warning her to stay away,” says a social activist, who does not want to be named. “One fine day she was missing along with the man but the man returned after a few months. She did not. Nobody has questioned him,” adds the activist.
More cases brought to light
With more awareness about human trafficking and what constitutes this, more cases are being brought to light.Vasudeva Sharma, executive director of Child Rights Trust, says, “I have been working in the field for the past 15 years and, till a few years, ago migrant labourers sending their children to work was not considered trafficking… Now, with more awareness, we understand the nexus better and have initiated a plan to identify the hotspots.”
Poverty leaves children of migrant workers defenceless. “What I have observed is that poor families from rural places come here with many children, and parents send the children out to work in various households and dhabas. That too is trafficking,” adds Rahul Prasad, a social worker and founder of Juvenile Care. Vasudeva adds that increase in cost of meeting basic needs including food and shelter have also led to an increase in trafficking.
Social workers say that children from broken families are more easily won over by middlemen. “Children are trafficked when the family is dysfunctional and the father is absent or distant,” says Vasudeva. “Girls, especially, seek love and end up being trafficked,” he adds. Such children are also nudged into dropping out of school, with the promise of a job and a secure future.
Rahul says that most vulnerable are 8 to 11-year-olds because of their ability to adapt to new surroundings.Renu Appachu, a social activist who works on rehabilitating children of sex workers and with survivors of HIV, says that this organised crime is on the rise because there is an increase in demand for minors.
What needs to be done
Vasudeva Sharma says that though there is much hype around the term “rescue”, the big question is what has been done to prevent trafficking? State Plan of Action to prevent and monitor human trafficking was formed 12 years ago, where NGOs and government departments came together and were headed by the Department of Women and Child Development. But social workers say that this committee has been non-functional. On contacting the department, City Express was briefly told that they are indeed functioning but to share details of what they have achieved so far, they will need more time.