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In Jharkhand, girls are 'sold' cheaper than livestock; state's poverty-stricken regions hotspots of child trafficking

Rahim was sold for Rs 75,000. Munni (name changed) was sold for Rs 15,000.

These numbers tell a grim story, because Rahim was a goat that was sold in the livestock market for Bakri Eid in Ranchi, while Munni is one among many girls from Jharkhand who are 'sold' everyday in the 'market' of modern-day slavery.

Ahead of Bakri Eid, a huge market selling goats for sacrifice was set up in the capital of Jharkhand, in which goats were being sold for amounts ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 80,000.

At the same time, girls are being trafficked from villages of Jharkhand and being sold in Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram and other big cities for a maximum amount of up to Rs 40,000, with the minimum amount being as low as Rs 1,000.

A few weeks ago, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi said that girls are being sold cheaper than cattle in this country.

Dr Sampurna Behura, director, programmes, at Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan said that the the organisation has been working with the trafficking survivors for years, and have found that Jharkhand, along with Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar is a major source state for human trafficking, while big cities including Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai are the destinations.

 In Jharkhand, girls are sold cheaper than livestock; states poverty-stricken regions hotspots of child trafficking

People buy goats from a livestock market ahead of Bakri Eid in Ranchi. Image: Rajesh Kumar

“We have rescued many girls from Jharkhand who were sold for Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000. These girls were forced to work as domestic help, where they were abused and assaulted, both physically and sexually,” Behura said.

She added, “These girls were taken away from their family by the middlemen, who paid a nominal amount to the families, and promised that they would earn well in big cities by doing domestic work. But at the end, the girl never gets anything. This exploitation has been going on for years, which is why Kailash ji made that statement.”

The arrests of hundreds of traffickers and middlemen of Jharkhand in the last few years has revealed the rates at which the girls from the state are being sold away.

Retired police official Aradhana Singh, who has played an important role in the arrest of over 70 traffickers including kingpins like Pannalal Mahato and Baba Bamdev said, “Most of the traffickers have confessed to selling girls for Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000, while Pannalal used to sell them for up to Rs 50,000.”

Singh said that the girls are priced at three levels.

“The first level is at the village, where the local middleman pays between Rs 1000 to Rs 3,000 to the family of the girl as they take them away with the promise of sending more money home in the form of the salary that the girl would receive for the work of a domestic help,” she said.

These local middlemen are usually people known to the families of the girls. Singh said that they first visit these families and build trust. The next step is to take the girls to local markets and fairs and get them do some shopping. “When the girls and the families develop complete faith on these middlemen, they convince the family to either send away the girl to big cities for earning money, or lure away the girls with the promise of showing them a bigger fair or market,” Singh said.

The next level is when the local middleman takes the girls to the placement agents in big cities. “This is when the middleman is paid an amount between Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per head,” Singh said.

However, the middleman is not given the entire amount at once. “If they (middlemen) take four girls to Delhi, they will be paid only for three, and will be promised payment for the fourth when they get more girls. This way, the placement agents ensure that they keep getting a constant supply of girls,” Singh said.

The final price of the girl goes up to between Rs 35,000 and Rs 40,000 when the placement agent employs the girl as a domestic help in any of the households. Singh said “These placement agents produce a proper receipt for every girl they place, and may charge a one-time fee of up to Rs 50,000 from the employers.”

Social activist Baidnath Kumar said that in tribal areas of Jharkhand, not only are goats 'costlier' than girls, but are also cared for more.

A report submitted to NITI Aayog by the government of Jharkhand mentions that 39.1 percent of the people of the state are below poverty line (BPL), as against the national average of 29.8 percent.

The situation is even worse for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Scheduled Caste (SC) population. In these two communities, the percentage of people below the poverty line in Jharkhand is 49 percent and 40.4 percent respectively.

“In the areas which are marked by extreme poverty, families are in such desperate need for money that they don’t think twice before sending away their daughters. The promise of getting some money in return is all it takes for them to send away their girls,” Kumar said.

A very recent case highlighting the desperation of these poor families is that of 16-year-old Soni Kumari, whose body was chopped into pieces and stuffed in a bag. The body was recovered from a drain in Delhi in May this year.

When the girl from Malgo village of Lapung block in Ranchi went missing in 2017, her family did not bother searching for her.

Soni’s mother, Parban Oraon said, “Soni had gone missing earlier too, but when she returned, she gave us Rs 2,000 and said that she earned it by working in a brick kiln in Uttar Pradesh. When she vanished again, we thought she would return with some more money, so we did not search for her. How were we to know that we will never see her again?”

New anti-trafficking Bill

“In our country, if a cow gets hurt, everyone revolts, but girls are being hurt everyday, and nothing happens,” Behura said.

She added, “A number of traffickers and employers of minor girls are moving around freely. The anti-trafficking Bill will help curb this organised crime, and put the criminals behind the bars.”

The anti-trafficking Bill, 2018 has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha soon. The Bill provides for a punishment of imprisonment from 10 years up to life, for people convicted of trafficking.

Sanjay Mishra, national treasurer of National Action and Coordination Group for Ending Violence Against Children (NACG EVAC) said that human trafficking is a major problem in the state and uprooting it is a challenge for all. "The Bill will prove to be a big help in getting the criminals convicted and punished. It will also help in getting the survivors rehabilitated."

The Bill creates a classification of the different types of trafficking, and also provides for the establishment of anti-trafficking relief and rehabilitation committees at the national, state and district levels, which will compensate and repatriate the survivors. Apart from this, it provides for the establishment of a national anti-trafficking bureau, district anti-trafficking units and appointment of state anti-trafficking officers, thus building an organised institution to fight against the organised crime of human trafficking.

Inspector General, CID (organised crime), Ranjit Prasad said, "Over the years, the state police has become very sensitive about the issue of human trafficking. Regular training is being provided to the policemen by the CID about nabbing the criminals involved in this organised crime and rescuing the missing children."

The author is a member of The NewsCart - a Bangalore based media startup.

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Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 22:45:38 IST

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