A child trafficking survivor in Bihar, India. Extreme poverty, illiteracy and socio-economic inequalities are the main drivers of child trafficking for forced or debt bondage. [captured via videolink] Photo credit: Neena Bhandari / IPSSYDNEY, Australia, Mar 29 (IPS) – Babloo’s parents (name changed), 12-year-old who worked as daily farm laborers in the east Indian state of Bihar, struggled to support their family of six. They had recently lost their eldest son to sudden illness when a distant relative convinced them to send Babloo to town with him to work. He promised to pay Rs 5000 ($ 70) a month, a significant amount for the impoverished family.
The relative took Babloo and his 14-year-old cousin out of the village and handed them to a human trafficker who took them by train to Jaipur, the capital of the western Indian state of Rajasthan, almost 1200 kilometers from their home.
“We were locked in a small room. The windows were sealed and there was no natural light. There were already 10 other children there. We had to grind glass stones and then glue the stone decorations and pearls onto lacquer bracelets every day from 6 a.m. to midnight, ”Babloo tells IPS via Zoom from his village in the Nawada district in the south of Bihar.
“When we felt tired, exhausted, or sick, we were hit with a wooden stake. We would weep for our lives in agony and fear. But we were so horrified that we didn’t try to escape, ”adds Babloo, who was traded in 2018 and rescued after six months in 2019.
Extreme poverty, illiteracy and socio-economic inequalities are the main drivers of child trafficking for forced or debt bondage. Traffickers have manipulated vulnerable rural families by using relatives or by referring to a relative to gain their trust.
“In some families with six to eight children there is only one breadwinner. Those families looking for a better life are becoming easy targets of traffickers who have started recruiting fewer than four children at a time to avoid suspicion by the authorities, ”said Kanhaiya Kumar Singh, director of Tatvasi Samaj Nyas, one in Bihar-based NGO, opposite IPS via WhatsApp.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) global report on human trafficking in 2020, children represented a third of the total of 48,478 recorded victims of human trafficking in 106 countries.
Although Bihar has formulated a comprehensive plan of action, Astitva, to prevent and combat human trafficking and rehabilitation of victims and survivors, Ramu faced a similar fate (name changed). He was trafficked with another boy from his village and two others from a nearby village in the Nalanda district, Bihar, in 2017 at the age of 13. They were also brought to Jaipur to work in a bangle sweat shop.
“We were always hungry because twice a day we got very little to eat. When we asked to speak to our family, we were cursed and beaten. I still get nightmares, ”Ramu, who was rescued in 2018, tells IPS about Zoom from his village.
These children are among the lucky ones to be rescued by law enforcement agencies with support from other government departments and civil society organizations, including the Child Labor Free Jaipur (CLFJ) initiative. CLFJ is a multi-stakeholder partnership that has worked with government, businesses, non-governmental organizations and local communities in Jaipur and Bihar to end child labor.
Almost 80 percent of the children rescued from clothing, crafts, jewelry, sweatshirts and factories in Jaipur are from Bihar, one of the poorer states in the country. In 2019, 261 boys and 33 girls were rescued in Bihar and 636 boys and 17 girls in Rajasthan.
“Children rescued from Jaipur will be returned to Bihar, where we will help them reintegrate into their community, for example by enrolling them in school, providing them with vocational training, giving them access to victim compensation and government benefits, and helping them and their families To pursue legal cases against the traffickers, ”says Abhijit De, program advisor to the CLFJ based in Patna (Bihar).
These boys are now part of the CLFJ Survivors’ Collective, which meets twice a month. “We provide them with skills and training to become anti-trafficking advocates in their own communities,” De IPS says of Zoom.
Ramu, who is in his eighth year of study, wants to become a police officer. “I want to protect my family and the villagers from criminals, especially human traffickers, so that no child has to experience the torture that I have committed,” he tells IPS about Zoom. His fellow survivor Babloo, who is fifth year enrolled, wants to become a doctor. “Our village only has one pharmacy. The hospital is too far away and a lot of people are dying from a lack of adequate medical care, ”he tells IPS of Zoom.
Another survivor, sixteen-year-old Veer (name changed), who was also freed from a workshop in Jaipur, wants to become a farmer. “We don’t have enough to eat, so we are easily deceived by human traffickers. I want to study agriculture and improve crop production,” he tells IPS about Zoom from his village in the Nalanda district.
“If these children can receive their compensation as soon as possible or within six months of being rescued, it would speed up their rehabilitation and further reduce trafficking. Now we have a trafficking rate of less than two percent among this group of survivors, ”De IPS says of Zoom.
“The delay in receiving compensation has been a major challenge,” agrees Sanjay Kumar, Chair of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Nalanda District. CWC is the legal body responsible for dealing with children in need of care and protection.
Seventeen-year-old Ali (name changed), trafficked from Katihar District (Bihar) in 2019, was escorted by CLFJ to Jaipur to testify in a trial against the trafficker. “It was terrifying to face the trafficker. He kept making signs and telling us not to say anything against him in court, ”he tells IPS about Zoom from his village. Now the courts are pioneering the use of video testimony from child trafficking survivors to effectively protect them from possible intimidation or retaliation.
“Between August 2019 and December 2020 there were six convictions against child traffickers in Jaipur, four with life sentences. These beliefs are really a powerful message to deter the traffickers and they help everyone realize that child exploitation is no longer accepted and tolerated, ”Ginny Baumann, senior program manager at The Freedom Fund, told IPS on WhatsApp.
In 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 27 human traffickers were charged by the police in Bihar.
“The biggest problem is that it can take several years to resolve cases. Survivors, their families and the civil society they support in persecuting human traffickers are at serious risk. We have set up voluntary community vigilance committees to alert the villagers if they see someone suspicious of looking for soft targets for traffic, ”says Singh on WhatsApp.
According to the NCRB Crime in India 2019 Snapshot, there were 2,914 children out of a total of 6,616 victims who were reported to have been trafficked. In Bihar, 180 people were trafficked for forced labor, 59 for domestic servitude and 50 for sexual exploitation and prostitution.
“Many boys who are trafficked for work are sometimes also sexually abused,” Priti Patkar, co-founder of the Prerana Anti-Trafficking Center in Mumbai, told IPS via WhatsApp.
The UNODC results from 2018 confirm the 15-year trend of changing the age and gender composition of the victims discovered. The proportion of children has risen to over 30 percent of the victims detected, and the proportion of boys detected has increased significantly compared to girls worldwide.
PM Nair, a professional officer with the Indian Police Service and national human trafficking expert, stresses the need for authorities – the police, the CWC, the county council, the nurses and NGOs – in the target states to work with and contact the appropriate authorities in the source state, in which the children were returned.
“This lack of connection has created a mess and hinders progress in curbing child trafficking,” Nair, who currently works at the Indian Police Foundation, told IPS via WhatApp. “The aftercare is completely inadequate and insensitive.”
“The Anti-Human Trafficking Units, along with the Anti-Human Trafficking Clubs, Panchayats Against Human Trafficking and NGOs, including the Childline, established in colleges across the country, have the potential to become a dominant force against human predators, and therefore everyone involved it has to strengthen it and help the mission to end human slavery, ”added Nair.
This is part of a series of contributions from around the world on human trafficking. The IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.
The Global Sustainability Network (GSN) pursues United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 with a special focus on Goal 8.7, which provides immediate and effective action to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and ensure prohibition and the elimination of Goal 87, seize the worst forms of child labor, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and end child labor in all its forms by 2025 ”.
The origins of the GSN lie in the efforts of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders, which was signed on December 2, 2014. Religious leaders of different faiths gathered to work together “to defend human dignity and freedom from extreme forms of globalization of indifference such as exploitation, forced labor, prostitution, human trafficking” and so on.
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