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Sexual abuse to exploitation: Jharkhand trafficking continues amid low prosecution

BKS has been nominated as a member of the Sub-group on “Child Rights and Child Protection” formulated by the NITI Aayog under NITI Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Standing Committee.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Ranchi |
May 10, 2021 4:13:31 am
The SRC also runs helplines which are receiving SOS calls for help from women specially minors.

Amid a high number of operations to rescue minors trafficked from Jharkhand to Delhi, the prosecution of alleged traffickers has remained disproportionately low, according to data accessed by The Sunday Express.

Between April 2019 and February 2021, 480 children were rescued in 208 operations after SOS calls to the State Resource Centre in Jharkhand, but only 33 cases were filed in Delhi and Jharkhand related to these incidents, according to data shared by the NGO Bal Kalyan Sangh (BKS), which runs the SRC under the state’s Women and Child Development Department.

BKS has been nominated as a member of the Sub-group on “Child Rights and Child Protection” formulated by the NITI Aayog under NITI Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Standing Committee. The SRC also runs helplines which are receiving SOS calls for help from women specially minors.

From 2014 to July 2020, Jharkhand registered 956 cases of trafficking, including minors and adults, and only 593 saw filing of chargesheets. A total of 1,900 people were trafficked as per official count and only 1,534 were repatriated.

Documents accessed by The Sunday Express from Child Welfare Committees in Delhi and Jharkhand also point to lack of interdepartmental coordination, in terms of probe and rehabilitation. Consider the following cases as per CWC orders:

* A 13-year-old girl was sexually abused by a trafficker in Pakur and was trafficked for work to Delhi, where she was sexually and physically abused thrice at her employer’s house. She managed to escape and was found near the Tagore Hill Metro Station in November last year. The Delhi CWC-1 on December 12, 2020 asked the investigating officer to probe the sexual abuse but according to a report submitted in February, the IO told the panel that they could not find any details of the employers through the two contact numbers shared by the minor. “Child labour, sexual abuse stays unclaimed,” the committee noted.

* A 17-year-old girl from Godda, along with four other minor girls, was trafficked to Delhi during the lockdown and was kept in Shakurpur at the placement agency’s office, where she was sexually abused by the employer. She was found “abandoned” somewhere in East Delhi in October last year. On November 23, the CWC-VII asked the IO to take action. However, the report in November said she was found to be “anxious, avoiding eye contact”.

* Two 15-year-old girls from Sahibganj and Khunti were found “alone at Anand Vihar Railway Station”. “They are giving confusing statements. It is not clear whether they arrived in Delhi for work or were going home after work,” noted CWC-Sahadra and North East on December 9 last year. Orders were made to trace their families. Later, it emerged that they had worked somewhere for four months and wanted to go home.

BKS Secretary Sanjay Mishra said there is no integrated system of registering a case once a rescue happens and this is significant considering that SOS calls have increased threefold during the lockdown. “This is when the child is accompanied by the police themselves and the system is well aware of it. At least there should have been zero FIRs in the state where the rescue has happened. In Jharkhand there needs to be an integrated approach with Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) linked with every rescue.”

Another source part of rescue teams said cases are lodged only if the families lodge a missing complaint with the police.

The onus also lies with the Child Welfare Committee, a quasi-judicial body which looks after trafficked children.

Ranchi CWC Chairperson Rupa Verma said that she seeks police action as far as cases related to the district are concerned but “we cannot act on behalf of the remaining 23 CWCs”. “A system needs to be in place for an integrated approach. For instance, despite several reminders, the girl from Pakur has not been repatriated. We are overburdened, our homes are overburdened.”

However, Pakur District Child Protection Officer Byas Thakur said he has been busy with a Covid-19 helpline. “Also, we sometimes lack funds to get a vehicle… Plus there are so many infections… Once the cases subside we will go to Ranchi to bring the child.”

Police officers said it becomes difficult to file cases in instances when the families are unwilling to proceed. “Sometimes the family members plead us to settle the matter as the trafficker is a relative,” said a police officer from Jharkhand.

SP CID Anjani Jha, who until a few months back looked into the trafficking wing in the department, said, “Registration of cases is not an issue, whenever we get a forward from CWC we do register a case. But we need a complaint to do it.”

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