Human Trafficking, a modern form of slavery, is a major issue in India and it has been plaguing the society for years. To put it briefly, trafficking involves transporting people from one place to another for exploitation in many forms. Although in most cases the victims are females and children, however, men too are not an exception. Experts estimate nearly 20,000 women and children were trafficked in India in 2016. Child marriage, which is regarded as a form of trafficking, is also a massive concern in India. Almost 27% of Indian female population are married off by the time they reach adulthood.

IMG_9386In most cases, false proposals for marriage and promises for various job opportunities are made to lure in victims. Once the target is under direct influence of the trafficker, he or she is sold, forced into bondage labour or sexual activities for commercial purpose. Most of these people are from rural areas or small towns belonging to the lower strata of the society, who can be easily lured by false hope of a better future. Nevertheless, off late there is growing trend of trafficking amongst the middle class too.

Though the various state police departments, a number of NGO’s and social groups are trying hard to curb this menace to society, it is far from easy to control it in a vast country like India. While police departments struggle to communicate with their counterparts miles away in some other state, the centre has done little to bolster up the funds or resources needed to counter this issue. The NGOs can only work on an issue if they receive sufficient fund to operate. Moreover, the number of them working on an issue as broad as this, in an area as big as this with a population of 1.32 billion is far too less. The problem does not just limit itself within the act of trafficking, but is also found to be extended within the society. Various social stigmas are found attached to it. Not only are the public, in general, less concerned about matters related to trafficking, but also they avoid talking about these issues in public as it may seem inappropriate. Such is the state of affairs that many a cases are not even reported to the police for fear of public shaming. None of the political groups are willing to take up this issue, which further hinders the progress.

Campaign March Against Bride Trafficking 2018

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Amidst this situation, Empower People, an NGO based out of Delhi working with victims and potential victims of human trafficking had sent a team led by activist Shafiq R Khan, to travel 8000 kms across India by car; visiting 10 states for a campaign named March Against Bride Trafficking 2018. 

Their objectives:

  • To understand what problems the police face when handling cases and try to figure out solutions
  • Engage in public activities with the local police to spread awareness on trafficking and information on how to reach out
  • Reach out to socio-political groups and invite them to join in with them for the war against trafficking 
  • To promote their helpline 011 300 102 11 launched for any stakeholder to guide them on how to handle different cases of trafficking.

They set out on their journey on 21st March from Diphu, Karbi Anglong district in Assam and aim to end their movement by 1st June in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. While they were on their way through Kolkata covering West Bengal, we joined them for a couple of days to get an inside perspective on the matter. A Delhite from Bihar, team leader Shafiq was accompanied by Salem Khan, tour coordinator and activist from Mewar; Prikshit Sharma, music composer and activist from Shimla; photo journalist Elena Del Estal from Spain and Gitesh Kaushik a PhD student from Haryana. This campaign, organized by Empower People, is powered by crowd funding and individual donors. Just as they were about to leave Kolkata on 16th April Dynt tagged along.

No sooner than we started we realized the problem was even deeper than we thought.

Each state has an anti-trafficking unit, but they cannot function properly due to certain barriers.

“The cases are being handled in the wrong way. Sometimes the police register a case of abduction as elopement or love affair even if it is a case of trafficking. This is because family members of the victim lodge a complaint stating their daughter has run away with a particular man who is responsible. In West Bengal there has been a case where four girls were being trafficked by one person and the case has been registered under elopement. How can a person run away with 4 females at the same time?” stated Shafiq Khan when asked about the problems they were facing. Statistically bride trafficking is in higher percentage than trafficking for the purpose of sex trade; but such practices by the authorities only shed a shadow of doubt on the actual recorded numbers.

Bengal Creating Trafficking Corridor 

DCPO Office West Medinipur

DCPO Office West Medinipur

Bengal accounts for 46% (NCRB) of the total human trafficking in India which are staggering numbers. In the district of North 24 Parganas, 107 women were rehabilitated in the past year itself. Being a trafficking hotspot, joining the campaign in West Bengal was an ideal scenario to get to the bottom of the problem. Our first stop was the district of West Medinipur, where we met the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) Mr. Sandip Kumar Das and head of Department of Social Welfare (DSWO), Mr. Manishankar Mukherjee. We were told about the structure of the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) and how it operates.

Mr. Kumar Das (DCPO) says “Everything runs smoothly; we have a lot of programs aimed at spreading awareness on child trafficking, child marriage and child labour. We send out teams to different Blocks and Gram Panchayats (GP) to organize anti human trafficking programs. Leaflets and banners are also used to spread awareness.” He informed us about ‘Operation Muskan’ which was launched to recover missing children, is in full flow and it is mandatory for every police officer to take part in it. Not only that, the DCPU even arranges programs to engage with the public and inform them about what to do when anyone comes across a case of trafficking. When asked about how trafficking cases from across the country are handled, he informed “All the DCPOs are well connected. If there is any case, we are all informed. Police departments from different parts of the country come here to work with us; and our local police also goes to other states for rescue operations. There is no problems as such.”

On the difficulties faced, he threw some light on some cases where there is a network of people working across the country who are involved in trafficking. Often the victim is dropped at the railway station by a person. From there on, someone else takes them along to some other destination. There is a third person waiting to transport them to the next location. Not necessarily just one person is involved in such heinous deeds. So by the time the victim is recovered, half the culprits have fled as it is almost impossible to keep track. He says, “Lot of times there are agencies based in Delhi who provide maids and servants to upper class households. They run a trafficking racket”. Females from the rural communities who are vulnerable are tempted with promises for jobs. Even if  the police manages to catch any of the culprits in the chain, they say that they were hired by the agency. Moreover when the Railway Protection Force catch them red handed in-between trafficking operations, the females don’t want to go back as they will be paid about 2500 every month against which the agency will have its commission cuts. ‘They say there are no jobs here. Who will feed us? You?’. “On top that, on the family’s request and statement, mostly we have to file an FIR of kidnapping under section 366B of IPC instead of trafficking.” The underlying problems were getting clearer as the gaps of administration slowly exposed itself as we delved deeper into the topic.

Rescuing a victim or capturing a trafficker is only one part of the story. There is a tremendous amount of work which is required on the government’s part in rehabilitating the victims into the society and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Shafiq says, “There has been one case in Darjeeling where a girl was trafficked to Delhi. When she was recovered and returned to her home, she wasn’t accepted by the family. Instead she got gang raped. She fled from there and got re-trafficked.” Especially in the India, there is a stigma attached to trafficking. If someone is trafficked, it is difficult for her to be accepted by the society. In some cases, the family also rejects her. She is considered as an untouchable as she had been involved in immoral acts. Though the victim wasn’t responsible for being trafficked, the brunt of the society has to be borne by her. This is one of the chief reasons why a lot of times families even hesitate to lodge a complaint with the police because it will bring disgrace to the family. This makes the situation even worse. The onus in such cases lies with the police to make a decision which will directly impact the future of an individual.

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Mr. Manishankar Mukherjee (DSWO) briefed us about the different schemes which the West Bengal government launched since the power shift and is active currently. ‘Muktir Alo’ Light of Freedom; active since April 2018, is one such program where anyone trafficked under the trafficking act will receive support from the government until they are gradually rehabilitated into the society brushing off all social stigmas. This is being run as a pilot project by the state government. Apart from that, they are also running a social welfare scheme called ‘Kanyashree’ for the girl child. In this program, girls of the lower strata aged between 13-18 will receive 750 per annum (K1 scheme); females between 18-19 will receive a one time payment of  25000 (K2 scheme) and arts and science students in college will receive 2000-2500 per month (K3 scheme). While grants for girls till the age of 19 are covered by the the social welfare department, the education department looks after the college students. ‘Rupashree’ is another program where the state government grants 25000 for a woman’s first marriage. Mr. Mukherjee says “Kanyashree directly benefits 1 lakh 82 thousand girls under K1 and K2 schemes.” This does, in turn, make it easier to monitor the girls too which, one must admit, is a smart initiative by the West Bengal government.

There has been a number of programs aimed to help out victims of trafficking and also to reduce trafficking but most of them are not in use. This is because the authorities themselves are not aware of it. “In some places the Additional Superintendents are not even aware that they are in charge of the anti-trafficking unit!” exclaimed Shafiq. Another issue that can be noticed is that even if there are a number of schemes, they don’t have enough budget to counter the amount of trafficking happening in the country. “It is easy of a government to launch a program; but what’s the use if there is no budget allocated for it? What is a child supposed to do with 750 per year?” Each police station has to have a child friendly zone. But no fund is allocated for the same. “In Dinajpur a smoking room has been converted into a kid’s corner in a local police station.”

Awareness Campaign in Kharagpur

Local Government School at Kharagpur

Local Government School at Kharagpur

The campaign wasn’t allowed to hold their public-police interaction session due to the ongoing elections in the District. Instead, we were taken to a local government school in Kharagpur, where a number of girls were sitting in a hall waiting for the awareness program to start. They were explained about child trafficking by Shafiq, and what are the actions to be taken in case they realize they or any of their friends are in trouble or have been trafficked. They were told always to be alert. “Always inform your family members where you are going and whatever is happening in your life. It is not necessary to tell everyone. Share your feelings with at least some who is close to you. Maybe your brother or sister if not your parents. If no one from your family then share it with your closest friend. At least someone should know what is going on in case you go missing.” Shafiq explained. It is easy to see why these awareness programs are being conducted from the ground level. In the Indian society, the gap between the parents and the children is huge especially, in these changing times. The older generation has always considered themselves superior which have diminished the voices and opinions of the younger generation. They rather stay away from any conversation than get into an argument with the seniors which results in inevitable defeat. “Parents have to change themselves. They are responsible for creating a safe space for their children where they can express themselves. Guardians have to become friends rather than an authoritative figure to their children for their own safety.” Shafiq tells us after conducting the session. Any kind of information can help to decide the fate of a girl who can be rescued or lost to the world of human trafficking.  A teacher expressed her concerns about the parents who are responsible for a lot of things like stopping a female student’s education after a certain age which definitely has adverse effects on her future. Moreover it doesn’t set the right example as the girl may do the same thing with her child in the future when she grows up. The students were informed about the helpline 1098 known as ‘ChildLine’ which they should use in case of any instance of trafficking they encounter to get in touch with the authorities.

With second officer of Kharagpur local PS

Kharagpur local PS

Next, we met Kharagpur Local Police Station Second Officer Md. Asif Sunny who shared his firsthand experience on dealing with human trafficking at ground level. He resonated the concerns about filing trafficking cases under elopement. While recounting about a team he led for a rescue operation to Karnataka to recover a girl he said, “We didn’t get reservation in train even though it was a rescue operation. We had to make last minute adjustments and make a break journey to reach our target destination. Valuable time is lost.” In a country like India, with population and migration sky rocketing, rail tickets are in great demand. The police are entitled to last minute reservations in case any operation is going on. But such is the dire state of the system that the police themselves have to work through a lot of channels to actually get their rail tickets. On a number of instances, they don’t manage to get through the top officials. Hence the rescue operation is jeopardized for a reason as trivial as failing to obtain a railway ticket. When asked about how they work with other state local police units, he said “We didn’t get any help from the local police before the Superintendent ordered them to. That too, they did it unwillingly. We faced a lot of hurdles before we got hold of the victim.” There was a stark contrast on what the police who lead recovery operations had to say with the departmental officials we had met earlier. The system and the provision is there. But the network between different departmental heads is missing. So the system cannot be implemented in full flow. “Sometimes a gang is operating who are involved with the local police. It is very difficult leading recovery operations in those cases.” This is not particularly a surprise in a country which is the 81st least corrupted in the global corruption rankings (reference). Shafiq says “I myself have experienced this in Rajasthan when I went for a rescue operation with the Murshidabad Police. The trafficker came to the Police station himself and started shouting at the Station House Officer (SHO); such was their audacity. The SHO asked for ₹50,000 for the girl from us! It was only when we were ready to pay the money only on Video record that he got to his senses and arrested him.” Another problem the police face when convicting a trafficker is lack of evidence against him. “Many a times the eye witness is from another state. It is difficult to bring him here and testify against the trafficker at the local court.” says Sunny. Which means a lot of the offenders roam free. “Sometimes the trafficker in our radar is also wanted in some other state or is in jail because of some other case. But we don’t get to know that.” It would save the Police time and money if there was a central monitoring system making it easier to track down the accused. Shafiq says “The cabinet has passed a bill for a new law which might enable such a monitoring system so I am hopeful.”

With Second Officer of Kharagpur PS

With Second Officer of Kharagpur PS

Each rescue operation is estimated to cost around ₹35,000 and there is provision for reimbursing the total amount of money spent on an operation. “We had to spend ₹50,000 from our own pockets for that operation and we haven’t got back the money yet.” added Sunny. The gaps in the system kept getting wider as we got further into the topic. It is clear that higher officials are mostly inaccessible and sometimes ignorant of their responsibilities while, the lower officials too don’t really know what to do in some cases. There was a general feeling of lack of awareness about the system which is in place to counter trafficking. The interaction revealed that there was even confusion on what to do with a victim after her recovery or on which scheme to put her under for her rehabilitation. Shafiq says, “There has been a case of child trafficking for marriage in Assam where the family had rejected their daughter after recovery. Not knowing what to do the Police got her married off to the accused.”  At that point in time, the authorities thought the best way for the girl to get a chance at life was to get married. Since the girl had the initial approval to run away with her lover. What they didn’t know was that the girl should have been put in a rehabilitation home under a government program. It is the lack of awareness on the police’s part which makes life even harder for a victim. This is where Empower People and their campaign March Against Bride Trafficking comes in.

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Empower People has launched a helpline dedicated to give the police step by step assistance during or after the recovery of any trafficked victim. 011 300 102 11 is the helpline number which has been launched, not for the public, but for any stakeholder who is dealing with a case of trafficking. The NGO tries to plug the gaps in the system discussed earlier through the helpline creating the missing network between different police departments to deal with the problems on trafficking. Shafiq thinks that the police is not to be blamed about the situation. “This is not the only issue the police have to solve. There are a million other things they have to take care of.” That is why in is not possible for the police to know everything especially, in a country like India, where they have to face a variety of challenges. “We work on trafficking and rescue operations; that’s why we know a lot more about it. The Police also needs support and we are providing them that.” he added. It is only practical for them to lend a helping hand to the police to make their work a lot easier in their joint effort to stop human trafficking. Their main objective is to find ways to keep the system which is in place as active as possible. “It is not our job to catch traffickers as NGOs. It is the polices’ job. Our job is to make police aware of the actions or steps to be taken for different cases against trafficking in its different stages. And also to get them in touch with different departments for the operation to be a success”

2nd Officer Asif Sunny adds “It also happens sometimes that an individual was trafficked before adulthood, but the FIR was lodged or victim was recovered after he or she became an adult. Those times we get a bit confused on what steps to take.”

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It is important to take note here that District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) is responsible for victim compensation of any forms of trafficking or sexual violation for commercial purpose both at central and state government levels. If the case has merit, the victim is entitled to get up to 50,000 as interim support. Even if the case has no such merit due to lack of evidence, the judge has the right to decide on the compensation of up to 10,000 as interim support for the victim after a recommendation from the Investigation Officer (IO). Only after the court comes to a conclusion, is the decision taken whether to put in, or recover money from the case, that too on the judge’s moral grounds. The IO generally does not pray for relief funds himself on the victim’s behalf, but he can do so in case the parents are not willing to, the victim is an orphan or is unconscious. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO) is also active, but at the national level. It also has the same procedure where one can apply for compensation if an FIR is lodged and DLSA gets involved here too. All this might a bit confusing and Police need someone who knows the different laws and policies to guide them through the process which Empower People are providing through the helpline. “We are there for all the technical requirements that the police have while dealing with a case even including assistance to reimburse the cost of rescue operations by getting them in touch with the needed departments. But we won’t talk about any criminal aspects.” says Shafiq. It is not possible for them to devise a mechanism where they can confirm who is at the other end of the helpline. It is only practical for them to refrain from discussing any criminal aspects as they don’t want to give away any vital information to any trafficker. After the interaction it did seem that the police were relieved and grateful that at least someone was thinking about them.

Interaction with Socio-Political GroupsIMG_9387IMG_20180416_232049

Next we were on our way to Ghatsila in Jharkhand, a town just on the border of West Bengal. It is predominantly from small towns like these that most of the trafficking victims are targeted. We went straight to the left based I.C.C Workers Union for the next part of the campaign. The General Secretary Mr. Om Prakash Singh was awaiting us along with the other members. One of the major objectives of MABT2018 is to get involved with social and political groups on the topic of trafficking. Though there are a number of NGO’s working on this matter, it is far less in number than what is required. Moreover as mentioned earlier, an NGO can do nothing if it doesn’t have any fund. This is where joining in with a social group in the fight against trafficking is a much more promising prospect. Just with some awareness programs you get a readymade team to work on the issue; all with the common objective of working for the betterment of the human kind. Shafiq says, “If someone wants to do good for the society or wants some popularity, he might as well work on a humanitarian cause like trafficking!”

Mr. Om Prakash Singh thinks, “Even if a case of trafficking is on the newspaper, people just read about it and then move on to the next story. Nobody really does anything about it.” It is true that public ignorance on the topic is baffling; more so because trafficking is such an epidemic in the country. Shafiq says, “Trafficking has to become a political issue for people to discuss it openly.” It is also true that making trafficking a political issue will bring the news in the forefront; thus spreading awareness among the common public.

ICC Workers Union members

ICC Workers Union members

Migration is necessary for the economy to flourish. And it is something which cannot be controlled. Since this migrating population is more vulnerable to trafficking, someone has to provide them with some safety. “Only thing the public wants is safety. Since votes are the only thing that matters in this country, will providing safety to migrant population win you votes or not?” asks Shafiq. Presenting the issue like this provides a lot scope on working on the welfare of potential trafficking victims. All the organization needs to do is make a database of the people, sign them up and provide them the support that if anything happens, they will watch their backs. If someone goes missing, they will just have to inform the police. The helpline launched by Empower People will also guide socio-political organizations like these step by step until the right department of the police has been informed. They will also provide information on post rescue scenarios like they do for the police. “It does not matter whether it is the BJP or the Congress. Everyone should work on the issue. If anyone wants to become a politician, work on trafficking!” says Shafiq. Connecting public groups with government programs is a good shot at reducing trafficking. With this, concluded our first day with the campaign. We were hosted by I.C.C Union member and Ghatsila College teacher Shekhar Mallick and wife Jyoti for the night.

Second day: East Singbhum District, Jharkhand

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On 17th morning we dropped by the ChildLine center of East Singbhum district on our way to Jamshedpur. We met Ms. Parvati Hasda there who expressed some of her concerns. “Most of the females are not let to finish off with their studies. They are forced to get married by the families’ themselves.” says Hasda. The girl child has always been subjected to such pressure from the society mostly, against her will historically in India. That hasn’t changed much as one can observe once we visit the rural areas or even the outskirts of the cities. Mr. Shekhar Mallick who was accompanying the team, recalls a female student at Ghatsila college who got married half way through her course but still completed it. “It was possible for her to come to college with her child because she had the will power, and also because her family let her. But most of the women cannot do that.” There’s all kinds of stigma that plagues the Indian society against the girl child. The family is afraid that once the female rejects an opportunity of marriage with a potential male, the society will question her character. Parents fear that she might never get married again if that happens. So even if it is against their will, they force her to get married. Most of the times the family themselves are a part of the system. “In spite of the innumerable opportunities education provides for a girl child to build up her career, they are forced to bear the burden of the society. Her age or choices don’t matter.” added Hasda.

Our next appointment was with Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Mr. Kailash Karmali and District Child Protection Officer Ms. Chanchal Kumari of East Singbhum district in Jamshedpur. They were of the opinion that with the help of NGOs the Police can save a lot of time making each rescue more efficient and effective. The main areas where most trafficked victims are ending up are Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. “If trafficking needs to be curbed, action needs to be taken place there.” thinks Karmali.  Shafiq says, “Our job is to create network between the source locations to the target location for the police to work effectively.”

DSP Karmali makes a valid point when he questions the main reason why trafficking is taking place. To irradiate an illicit trade one needs to get to the base of it. But it’s true that the question might not have a simple answer. It might be profit, it might be lack of any opportunity for the youth which makes them indulge in such practices to earn a living. And there is no simple solution to that. Karmali says, “Mainly people from small towns or rural areas are targeted with no education or awareness.” He told us that trafficking numbers have gone down in the district considerably as the number of reports have reduced. While it was a bit of a relief to hear that progress has been made, it was yet not convincing as most of the cases are not even reported. The arrest of a trafficker named Bamdev who had been transporting girls from Jharkhand to Delhi seemed to have pegged back the industry a bit in the area. Shafiq says, “It is not that traffickers only target people from the rural communities or small towns. They target people as per demand. If the industry reaches such a stage that middle class women are in demand they will target that group.” There has been new trending instances where females from middle class households have been trafficked through fake promises of becoming a movie star and so on.

DSP Karmali, East Singbhum District with DSWO

DSP Karmali, East Singbhum District with DSWO

Karmali adds, “The mode of trafficking has also changed now.” When asked about how they deal with each case post rescue, he said “We calculate the time period from the day the girl has been missing, which is not necessarily the date on which the FIR was lodged. Even if the girl is a juvenile when trafficked and has reached adulthood when rescued, we give her the benefits provided for child trafficking. If the girl is above 18 when trafficked and is rescued, we analyze if the parents are capable enough to take care of her. If they are not, we take steps accordingly and send her to a rehabilitation home.” He even told us that each rescued girl is monitored by the police to make sure re trafficking does not take place.

Meeting with Child Protection Unit of East Singbhum District, Jharkhand

Child Protection Unit Singbhum

Child Protection Unit Singbhum

After our meeting with the DSP, he led us to a conference room where Child Welfare Police Officers (CWPO) from adjoining local police stations had assembled themselves. “The government is making law after law to counter the issue of trafficking which is making it more confusing for the people who actually work on ground. Our job here is to understand what difficulties the police face while working on cases and solve them.” begins Shafiq. Though the DSP had mentioned that they have an active system overseeing human trafficking, the CWPOs were clearly confused on what to do. This was becoming a trend to see the information gap between the higher officials and the local level police officers who operated on ground. One of the problems the police face is that the number of homes for rehabilitation are quite less. So it naturally becomes difficult for them to enroll victims into rehabilitation programs. Karmali admits the fact and says, “We have requested for more such homes for trafficked victims and hopefully by next year we will be in a better position.” It became clear after some discussion that the main issue they face is of child marriage. One of the officer says “A lot of times we have to act fast. We are tipped at the last moment and sometimes it’s too late. It is difficult to recover the child after the wedding is over.” Moreover after reaching the spot, the families on both sides may obstruct as they have an understanding of their own between themselves. Here too there was the same confusion on the actions to be taken with a victim after she has been rescued. Another officer adds, “The victim is afraid to tell us what happened which makes it difficult to solve the case.” Many of the times traffickers threaten the victim if she opens her mouth against them. Right after a rescue operation it is sometimes difficult for the victims to come out with all the information since they are mostly left traumatized. What they need at that moment is health care and counseling. Shafiq says, “First step is to get in touch with the Health Officer who will forward you to the required health department or the required doctor.” DSP Karmali addressed the gathering, “Maybe the victim hasn’t eaten since two days. You have to provide her food and warmth. Send her for counseling. If you give her time and gain her trust she will come out with all the information you need.” Here too, as before, the police were greatly relieved when they were told that the helpline would provide information at every stage of a rescue operation which is vital for it to be a success. As the meeting was being rounded off one of them added, “Programs like these are very important and helpful. We need more like this in the future.”

DRDA Office East Singbhum

DRDA Office East Singbhum

Before we pushed off for the public-police interaction program which would be our last event with the campaign, we paid a visit to the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDA) office. Here we met DRDA director Ms. Uma Mahato and National Employment Program (NEP) director Ms. Ranjana Mishra. The high spirit we had after the conference came crashing down as Ranjana Mishra questioned the campaign’s longevity. “Every now and then there is a campaign for awareness, but it is useless as it’s just momentary.” When asked about what provisions are there for an adult trafficked victim, she said, “We have to accept the fact that India is not a welfare state. We don’t have resources.” The only welfare scheme they had for adults was provision of 600 per month for a widow. “People say that they can’t leave their daughters at home while they go for work because they will get raped. So they marry them off even if she is a child.” She added, “There is consent from both the sides and they have reasoning too. So there is very little the police can do.” At this point it felt like sections within the police themselves are a part of the system and are contributing to the problem. On the hind sight, it was quite surprising that we didn’t get such reactions earlier in a country with such high percentages of human trafficking and child marriage. If the departments responsible for development and welfare has such a passive attitude, it is not difficult to guess why the problem persists with rates going up.

Public-Police interaction for Awareness Program

Public Police interaction Program at Tatanagar Junction

Public Police interaction Program at Tatanagar Junction

We made our way to Tatanagar Railway Junction where we would board our train back to Kolkata after the public interaction program. The station was chosen as a perfect podium as most of the trafficking operations are done through the railway network, the stations being the gateway. As we reached, the volunteers started approaching people for awareness purposes handing out cards with helpline numbers. This was our first interaction with the public and it was not hard to see why progress hadn’t been made. While a handful of people took interest, most of them didn’t have time or the will to discuss about the topic. Banners were put up in front of the RPF office inside the station and sound systems were set up, but it still failed to attract any audience or any sort of participation from the public. Hence the event had to be called off.

We joined the campaign March Against Bride Trafficking the day before to see what it was all about. Little did we know or guess how deep rooted the problems they face are. It was clear that such a vast issue nationwide would take enormous amount of effort both at organizational and individual level to curb. It is not just the issue on ground, but is also a psychological problem of the society which makes it easier for the illicit trade to grow. NGOs like Empower People are trying their best to lend in a helping hand to the authorities and to spread awareness amongt the public. To be fair to them, they do have a far reaching impact. But harsh reality is that it’s not enough. The war on human trafficking goes on through the limited resources available at hand. The job is not done yet as the campaign still has considerable amount of ground to cover and work to do till they complete 8000 kms in Shimla on 1st June 2018. They started off on their way towards Ranchi for the next program as we parted ways.

This report has been prepared by Shovon Ray, creative head, Dynt.