After being rescued from a living nightmare in Delhi, all 19-year-old Madhu wanted was to return to her home in a village under Chanho block in Ranchi to start her life afresh.
But within two months of having returned, she was forced to migrate to Ranchi city, where she now works for daily wages. She said villagers, including boys she grew up with, have refused to accept her as one of their own. According to her, they question her integrity, and subject her to harassment.
Madhu, who was lured to Delhi with the promise of proper employment but ended up being thrashed and abused by her employers on a regular basis, is just one among several other ‘Delhi return’ girls who are stigmatised for having lived in the national capital.
“They (villagers) called me Delhi wali and look at me with disgust. Here, in Ranchi, no one knows my past and I can live with some dignity,” said Madhu. “They (boys who she grew up with) used to comment ‘Delhi ke ladko ke saath reh sakti ho to humme kya kami hein’ (if you can live with men in Delhi, we don’t have anything lacking either),” she added, ending in a near whisper.
Sita Swansi of Diya Seva Sansthan (DSS), a social organisation working for the welfare of women, said several girls their organisation helped rescue requested to stay in Ranchi and work as a domestic help or a daily wage earner, instead of returning to their villages.
“While the rescued girls below the age of 15 are enrolled in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs), girls above the age of 15 years face real difficulties in leading a normal life,” Swansi said. Swansi added that several women who approached her seeking employment as domestic help complained of being abused by men in their villages.
Girdhari Ram Gaunjhu, who served as the head of the tribal and regional languages department in Ranchi University, said that rescued women often have trouble finding a life partner because of a narrow mindset. Women who return from major cities such as Delhi are subjected to remarks such as pata nahi kya karke aayi hogi (no idea what she must have done there and returned), or kya bimari le ke aayi hogi (wonder what disease she may have brought back).
After a prolonged stay in a city, women often change the way they dress, their food habits and lifestyle changes and find it difficult to return to the rural culture. The villagers, in turn, find it difficult to accept the women and the cultural differences.
“Adjusting to a rural lifestyle becomes really difficult and the woman tries to escape poverty, which was a major reason for her leaving the village the first time,” said Gaunjhu. Urbanisation of individuals also leads to rescued women being targeted by local men.
“Unlike other girls in my village, I wear jeans. When I go to the market, I often hear people whispering about me behind my back; autorickshaw drivers pass lewd comments or try to touch me inappropriately because I dress different than other girls,” a woman from Gumla district said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Lack of rehabilitation facilities
The ‘Vasant Kunj maid’ hit national headlines, after being rescued from brutal torture at a Delhi household in 2014; then state social welfare minister Annapurna Devi announced that the victim would receive strong support from the government and she would be made the brand ambassador for Jharkhand against human trafficking.
But four years later, the victim continues to reside in her village at Sahibgunj, where she works as a daily wage earner. “She didn't receive any skill development training or support from the government. All she got was a compensation of Rs 50,000 on the direction of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, who was involved in her rescue. "Girls are being rescued every day and sent back to Jharkhand, but none of them are properly rehabilitated. There is no policy for rehabilitation in the state," Kant added.
Acknowledging that the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) is facing a few hurdles in being properly implemented, Jharkhand women and child development secretary Vinay Kumar Choubey said, "Things were not going well because of vacancies. In the past four months, we have filled several posts and are hoping that now the work will be done properly." Choubey added that the government also has shelter provisions for women above the age of 18 in Nari Niketans, where they can stay if they do not wish to return to their villages after being rescued.
Two years since the Tejaswini: Socioeconomic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women Project was approved by the World Bank, the $90 million training programme for girls between the ages 14 and 24, in all 17 districts of Jharkhand, is clearing hurdles and aims to empower seven lakh women. "The project was started in two districts, Ramgarh and Dumka, in January, for which 50,000 girls have been selected. We will cover all the remaining districts in this financial year," said Choubey.
The project will offer rescued trafficking victims under the age of 24 an opportunity to earn a better livelihood. Under the scheme, a Tejaswini club will be formed in every two anganwadi centres and eight clubs will make a cluster. Seven lakh girls across the state will be made members of these clubs where they will be taught about various living essentials such as hygiene and nutrition. "The girls will be linked to the national skill development programme, and given an opportunity to write their matriculation examinations or provided financial training for self-employment based on their inclination," said Choubey.
The author is a member of The NewsCart, a Bengaluru-based media startup.
Updated Date: Jun 11, 2018 18:35 PM