CHILD TRAFFICKING/CHILD SLAVERY
An effective Reintegration Program entails for rescued children
“In Rajasthan children trafficked are pressed to work in grueling conditions of 14 to 16 hours a day on a meager wage or sometimes without pay. They are forced to work in salt, cracker, mining industries; manufacturing of lac bangles, embroidery, and carpet weaving while in south Rajasthan, they are engaged in the farming BT cotton. Jaipur’s Ramganj, Bhatta Basti, Shastri Nagar areas are the hub for traffickers to sell children for labor,” said Pooja Dayma, a child rights activist during an interview.
According to the National Human Rights Commission of India, 40,000 children are abducted each year, leaving 11,000 untraced. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 1,48,185 cases of crime against children were registered during 2019, showing an increase of 4.5% over 2018 (1,41,764 cases).
Child trafficking is a big challenge worldwide and affecting a large number of children every day. The subject is a matter of great concern. Poverty, unemployment and recently the country’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic compel a large number of children and their families to migrate from backward areas for work, making these children easy prey for trafficking. Children who leave school early are the most vulnerable to exploitation.
As per the law, people who employ any child/adolescent to work can get minimum imprisonment of 6 months to 2 years and a fine of Rs.20-50,000. The trend of child trafficking shows a steady increase. Thousands of children go missing in India every year, many of whom are thought to be trafficked for labour. According to the census 2011, (980,000) 1 in every 10 children – is child labour in Rajasthan.
Seeing the increasing rate of child trafficking the Centre has shown concern over the issue and urged states to keep an eye on the deprived families, so they do not sell their children for monetary requirements. As a positive initiative, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), tribal ministry, and various NGOs aim to map and link these children with their families through various government welfare schemes.
While interacting with me Pooja Dayma further said that the families of rescued children do not get the constant financial support with other government welfare schemes that are essential to mitigate the risk of re-trafficking of those rescued children.
Children from Rajasthan cross the border to enter Gujarat to work, but Rajasthan is also a destination state for child labour from West Bengal, Bihar, UP, Delhi, and Jharkhand. Bihar is a large source of the trafficking of children for forced labour and New Delhi is the transit city for child trafficking. More than half of the working children are concentrated in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
Pooja Dayma informed, “In 2014 we rescued a girl from Rajasthan who was sold by her parents for Rs. 50,000 to a bar in Mumbai. Now after our involvement she is happily settled with her family in Rajasthan. Similarly, five boys from Bihar have been rescued. They were supplied at a bangle factory in Jaipur and were working for over 18 hrs. everyday.”
Mr. Satya Prakash from FXB India Suraksha (an NGO) highlighted the major loopholes of the Government’s Reintegration Program. He said that without any follow-ups government’s reintegration program of trafficked children gets over once they are rescued and go back into their family. Rescue raids are often conducted in an ad hoc manner without accountability or monitoring. This leads to the inconsistent filing of First Information Reports of crimes committed by police, low rates of prosecution, and inadequate delivery of post-rescue care for children.
In an exclusive interview, Manna Biswas, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF, Rajasthan stated that the process of rescued children is not well defined and the program needs to be addressed properly. Agencies like District Child Protection Unit, District Child Welfare Committee, and Child Labour Task Force are responsible for charting out rehabilitation plans. Without such a rehabilitation plan, there are high chances that the rescued child for fighting against poverty and satisfying their hunger get caught again in the vicious cycle of trafficking.
In the end, I can say that the issue of missing and untraced children, based on police records, is a matter of deep concern for the Central and State Governments and effective steps need to be taken for investigation. It’s the responsibility of the Government to work on a holistic approach for providing a sustainable environment to the rescued children. Government is silent over the issue of rescued children/ women rehabilitation. There are ambiguities in the Government Rehabilitation Program. To completely stop re-trafficking of a child, rehabilitation follow-up procedures should be done by various committees formed at different levels, with stringent monitoring. Through NGOs and the government’s involvement, great efforts have been made to terminate trafficking. As a positive outcome, with education and awareness more trafficking FIRs are being filed these days and people are avoiding hiring children. But still, the situation seems gruesome.
A child under 18, migrated, transferred, recruited, transported, harbored, or received with a purpose of exploitation within or outside the country is a sufferer of trafficking. Trafficked children are used for sexual exploitation, illegal adoption, paid/unpaid worker, false marriage, and even killed for the purpose of organ sale or induction in terrorist activities. Therefore, Child trafficking is often gang or mafia-based. Hence, tracking or investigation of a child trafficked involves high risk and data gathering and its dissemination is always limited. Among many child laws formed, the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, amended in 2016, states that a “Child” below the age of 14, prohibits employment of a Child in any occupation including domestic help. But yes, a child is allowed to work only in family-related businesses and never in precarious work conditions. On the government’s child helpline number 1098 one can report against child labour.